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NHS England frees up millions of pounds which could be used for frontline services

03/04/2018

NHS England has published guidance to free up to almost £100 million for frontline care each year by curbing prescriptions for 'over the counter' medicines such as those for constipation and athletes foot.

Curbing routine prescribing for minor, short-term conditions, many of which will cure themselves or cause no long term effect on health, will free up NHS funds for frontline care.

The guidance will not affect prescribing of over the counter items for longer term or more complex conditions or where minor illnesses are symptomatic or a side effect of something more serious.

The NHS each year spends:

  • £22.8 million on constipation – enough to fund around 900 community nurses
  • £3 million on athletes foot and other fungal infections – enough to fund 810 hip ops
  • £2.8 million on Diarrhoea – enough to fund 2912 cataract operations

The new over the counter medicines guidance will curb the routine prescribing of products that are for:

  • A self-limiting condition, which does not require any medical advice or treatment as it will clear up on its own, such as sore throats, coughs and colds
  • A condition that is suitable for self-care, which can be treated with items that can easily be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy, such as indigestion, mouth ulcers and warts and verrucae.

Other over-the-counter products currently prescribed include remedies for dandruff, indigestion, mouth ulcers and travel sickness. Each year the NHS also spends 4.5 million on dandruff shampoos, £7.5 million on indigestion and heartburn, and £5.5 million on mouth ulcers.

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