The health service announced back in March it is banning prescriptions for over-the-counter remedies from May 31. A wide range of medicines will no longer be available on NHS prescription at the end of the month.
Cough mixture, eye drops, laxatives, sun creams, paracetamol and anti-dandruff shampoo are among the products that will be curbed.
Treatments for constipation, cold sores, minor burns and non-severe pain, such as backache, will also cease to be available on prescription.
The move, which is hoped to save the cash-strapped NHS £100 million a year, follows the ‘worst winter ever‘ that led to thousands of cancelled operations.
Emergency doctors in swamped A&E units have repeatedly begged for extra funding, which they claim is the only way to avoid another crisis next winter.
NHS officials voted in favour of the money-saving plans in a board meeting, with the leftover cash being invested into frontline services.
At the end of the month, a range of medicines will not be available on NHS prescription (stock)
WHAT ‘OVER-THE-COUNTER’ PRESCRIPTIONS HAVE BEEN CURBED?
From May 31 the NHS will no longer be prescribing ‘over-the-counter’ remedies.
This is an attempt to save money and pump it into frontline services.
Treatments for the following conditions will no longer be routinely prescribed:
- Acute sore throat
- Infrequent cold sores of the lip
- Coughs and colds and nasal congestion
- Cradle Cap (seborrhoeic dermatitis – infants)
- Infant colic
- Mild cystitis
- Mild irritant dermatitis
- Diarrhoea (adults)
- Dry eyes/sore (tired) eyes
- Excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
- Head lice
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Infrequent constipation
- Infrequent migraine
- Insect bites and sting
- Mild acne
- Mild dry skin
- Sun protection
- Mild to moderate hay fever/seasonal rhinitis
- Minor burns and scalds
- Minor conditions associated with pain, discomfort and/fever. (e.g. aches and sprains, headache, period pain, back pain)
- Mouth ulcers
- Nappy rash
- Oral thrush
- Prevention of dental caries
- Ringworm/athletes foot
- Teething/mild toothache
- Travel sickness
- Warts and verruca
‘Every pound we save we can invest in better care’
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said at the time: ‘Across the NHS our aim is to: “Think like a patient, act like a taxpayer”.
‘The NHS is probably the most efficient health service in the world, but we’re determined to keep pushing further.
‘Every pound we save from cutting waste is another pound we can then invest in better A&E care, new cancer treatments and much better mental health services.’
The NHS has been the subject of huge controversy amid revelations that it has been dishing out items that can be bought for far cheaper at supermarkets.
Campaigners have warned this is stretching the health service’s scarce funds even thinner by prescribing certain products, such as paracetamol.
How much does the NHS spend on these prescriptions?
On top of the higher prices, suppliers charge the NHS substantial delivery and administration costs to ship these products to pharmacies.
NHS England said it costs more than £35 to prescribe a pack of 12 anti-sickness tablets – despite them being on sale for £2.18 at pharmacies.
Official figures earlier this year showed health chiefs spent around £80 million on aspirin and paracetamol, which can be bought for pennies at supermarkets.
Each prescription of the 20 million paracetamol prescriptions cost the NHS £3.07. A pack of 16 tablets can be picked up for 20p at shops.
NHS England claims it spends £22.8 million every year on constipation treatment – enough to fund around 900 community nurses.
A further £3 million is spent on athlete’s foot and remedies for other fungal infections, which is the equivalent of 810 hip operations.
While £2.8 million is spent on diarrhoea treatment – enough money to pay for 2,912 cataract operations.
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.
Number crunching by MailOnline showed the cash-strapped health service could have saved roughly £57 million by not giving out paracetamol.
HOW MUCH PRESSURE WAS THE NHS UNDER DURING THE ‘HUMANITARIAN CRISIS’ OF 2016?
The NHS endured its worst ever winter crisis, with waiting times, cancelled operations and bed-blocking running at, or near, record levels last year.
Official figures illustrated the scale of the scale of the turmoil to engulf the health service in the face of unprecedented pressures.
Bed-blocking due to a lack of social care places was at a record high with more than 2,500 health patients prevented from leaving hospitals each day – specifically because there is nowhere for them to go.
Statistics from NHS England report also revealed nearly 200,000 patients waited at least four hours in A&E between the winter months of December to February – a five-fold increase from just 41,000 five years previously.
Supporters of the NHS reacted in fury after the Red Cross claimed hospitals were facing a ‘humanitarian crisis’ after its worst week in 15 years
Extreme waiting times also reached record levels, as nearly 2,000 patients were forced to wait at least 12 hours in A&E over the same period.
And cancer referral rates in February were at their second lowest level on record.
Supporters of the NHS reacted in fury after the Red Cross claimed hospitals were facing a ‘humanitarian crisis’ after its worst winter in 15 years.
The charity said it stepped in to help the NHS in England to deal with the increased demand during the winter, but have been hit with criticism accusing them of overstating the issue.
It comes as it emerged that two patients died on trolleys in Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s accident and emergency department in January.
Follows homeopathy ban
The new move follows a vote last November to remove homeopathy, herbal remedies and supplements as part of a review of ‘wasteful’ prescriptions.
The proposals, which have attracted some backlash by pharmacists, received ‘broad support’ in a public consultation, members heard.
More than 60 per cent of respondents to the consultation agreed a ban on dishing out over-the-counter remedies was fair.
The changes will not affect prescriptions for long-term or complex conditions, or where minor illnesses are a symptom of something more serious.
Vulnerable patients will also continue to receive prescriptions for over-the-counter items, provided they are proven to be effective.
Sun creams will not be prescribed, as well as laxatives, eye drops and cough mixture (stock)
‘Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for anti-dandruff shampoo’
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, previously said: ‘It’s great news that NHS England will save a vast amount of taxpayers’ money by curbing prescriptions for basic items that are much cheaper to buy in the supermarket than they are to prescribe.
‘Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for items like anti-dandruff shampoo or athlete’s foot powder, so cutting out wasteful spending like this will mean that precious resources can be focused on frontline services.
‘Patients too must remember that these items are not “free” – the money comes out of taxpayers’ pockets, so NHS England should be applauded for this move.’
Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, warned that patients from poor backgrounds may suffer from the new plans.
She added: ‘All pharmacists understand the importance of encouraging people to self-care and buy over the counter treatments when they are able to do so.
‘Restricting access to over the counter medicines would have increased health inequalities.
‘We are pleased that NHS England has recognised our concerns and have made positive changes.
‘However, we remain concerned the implementation might disadvantage patients on low incomes and people may be denied treatment because of their inability to pay.
‘We will continue to work closely with pharmacists to ensure effective implementation and make sure that access to medicines is based on clinical needs.’