Patients encouraged to buy some medicines over the counter

Walsall residents who regularly have certain medicines prescribed to them by their GP are being encouraged to buy it over the counter.

NHS Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are encouraging people to buy some medicines over the counter after research carried out on EPACT searches, showed Walsall’s NHS spent £400,000 on certain medications in 2016/17.

This comes after NHS England published guidance to free up almost £100 million for frontline care each year by curbing prescriptions for ‘over the counter’ medicines. 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.

For example paracetamol and ibuprofen can be purchased in people’s local pharmacies or supermarkets for less than £1 – pharmacies often have extended opening times, therefore allowing rapid access and early treatment, rather than facing delays by attending a GP appointment for a prescription.

Walsall spends around £2 million per year on widely available, over the counter medicines, and GPs spend an average of £5,000 every day seeing patients who have minor ailments that could be treated with remedies bought from a pharmacy, supermarket or shop.

However, requesting prescription for Paracetamol from your GP costs the NHS over four times as much compared to over the counter purchases. Other medicines NHS Walsall CCG is encouraging people to buy over the counter include treatments for minor ailments, including medicines like paracetamol, ibuprofen, head lice lotion, dandruff and indigestion tablets.

Treatments where there is little evidence that they have a real clinical benefit, including cough syrups, nasal congestion sprays, sore throat products and vitamin supplements. Dr Anand Rischie, Chair of Walsall CCG said:

“Funding of medicines available to purchase to treat self-limiting conditions and minor aliments and self-care is a personal responsibility.

“All patients will be expected to access and purchase such medicines. There is a range of resources for advice on medicines such as community pharmacists and NHS 111, which can be used to enable self-care before seeking advice from your GP practice.

“Pharmacists are also well trained to support the management of self-limiting and minor illnesses, plus are accessible without an appointment and some are available during evenings and weekends.”

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