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Prescribing of over the counter medicines is changing

The NHS spends over approximately £500 million per year on prescriptions for medicines, which could otherwise be purchased over the counter (OTC) from a pharmacy and/or other outlets such as petrol stations or supermarkets.

These prescriptions include:

  • Items for a condition that is considered to be self-limiting and so does not need treatment as it will heal or be cured of its own accord
  • Items for a condition which lends itself to self-care i.e. the person suffering does not normally need to seek medical advice and can manage the condition by purchasing OTC items directly
  • Common items that can be purchased over the counter, often at a lower cost than that which would be incurred by the NHS
  • Common items for which there is little evidence of clinical effectiveness.

By reducing spend on treating conditions that are self-limiting or which lend themselves to self-care, or on items for which there is little evidence of clinical effectiveness, these resources can be used for other higher priority areas that have a greater impact for patients, support improvements in services and/or deliver transformation that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the NHS. 

The costs to the NHS for many of the items used to treat minor conditions are often higher than the prices for which they can be purchased over the counter as there are hidden costs. For example, a pack of 12 anti-sickness tablets can be purchased for £2.18 from a pharmacy, whereas the cost to the NHS is over £3 after including dispensing fees. The actual total cost for the NHS is over £35 when you include GP consultation and other administration costs. 

Self-care provides people with the ability to take greater control of their health and wellbeing. It also helps the CCG ensure they only offer treatments through the local NHS that are clinically effective and that provide a clear health benefit to patients. 

Halton CCG has included prescribing of medicines for minor ailments as part of their workplan for 2018/19 and within this will pay due regard to the recommendations within the NHS England document "Conditions for which over the counter items should not routinely be prescribed in primary care: Guidance for CCGs". The primary focus will be raising public awareness regarding the most appropriate place to seek advice and treatment for minor ailments and promotion of the local NHS Minor Ailments Scheme, Care at the Chemist (CATC) as an option for patients to consider.

There will be significant engagement with the public and patient groups as well as with healthcare professionals and local organisations. We are developing a policy and support materials for both patients and health care professionals to reflect the key messages and support implementation of the NHS England guidance locally. The policy and associated support materials will be made available on this website once finalised and approved.

This policy is intended to encourage people to self-care, for minor illness as a first stage of treatment. It is envisioned that in most cases these minor conditions will clear up with appropriate self-care. If symptoms are not improving or responding to self-care the patient should be encouraged to seek further advice. It is NOT intended to discourage patients from going to the GP when it is appropriate to do so. 

This policy does not remove the clinical discretion of prescribers in accordance with their professional duties.

Resources for use by patients 

Find out more about Self Care developments in Halton

Find out more about the local minor aliments scheme (CATC)

Useful links to local and national resources for patients and health care professionals

Self Care Information and advice for people in Halton leaflet

Patient Self care Leaflet easy read (to Follow)  

Resources for use by Healthcare Professionals 

Digital Resources

pdf Community Pharmacy and Self Care Poster 

pdf Seven Steps to Self Care Poster

pdf Medicines Cupboard and Self Care Poster 

Urgent Treatment Centres and Self Care Poster

pdf Self Care Pass along card

image National Self Care for life poster 

pdf NHS Halton Self Care Policy Document