New measures introduced by the NHS stop doctors from prescribing medicines for low value treatments. Family GPs are telling patients to get prescriptions for common illnesses from a pharmacy instead.
CURBS ON PRESCRIPTIONS: NHS England figures state that GPs issue well over 1 billion prescription items each year.
The annual cost of doing so is about £10 billion. Even so, the overwhelming majority of NHS prescriptions are appropriate.
The issue relates to medicines, products, and some treatments that do not require a prescription. In fact, people can purchase the items on the list of low value medicines over the counter from pharmacies.
Many OTC drugs are also available for purchase from supermarkets, corner shops, and at petrol stations.
These retailers sell over the counter medicinal products also prescribed by family doctors. They include medication such as cough mixture, cold treatments, eye drops, sun cream lotions, and laxatives.
Often, the cost of buying these items is much lower than the price paid by the NHS for the same product. Thus, stopping GPs from prescribing low value medicines could save the NHS £190 million a year.
It should also free up millions of GP appointments occupied by patients asking the doctor to prescribe these types of medicines.
Here's the deal:
The ban only applies to prescriptions for minor and short-term conditions. Most of these common ailments cure themselves or they cause no long term effect on public health and wellbeing.
So what happens if you are a patient with a sore throat, a cough, or diarrhoea? Well, your doctor will tell you to get the treatment from a pharmacy instead. You do not need an appointment to buy over-the-counter remedies from a pharmacy.
Hence, 'routine' prescriptions for low value medicines has now stopped for countless of minor illnesses. But, it has sparked some fears for thousands of patients who may shun the treatment altogether or end up out of pocket.
New NHS guidelines mean you will no longer be able to get a GP prescription for these ailments and conditions:
Estimates suggest the NHS spends over £550 million on minor ailment medication in England each year. That is why area clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) brought in the new policy.
But, health campaigners have expressed their concerns. They say it will hit many patients in the pocket if they qualify for free prescriptions.
NHS England pressed ahead with guidance to GPs and CCGs to remove ineffective, unsafe and low clinical value treatments. Among those most affected are some dietary supplements, herbal treatments, and homeopathy.
One official doctor at the CCG explained how the system should work, saying:
"We want to help educate people that many common conditions can be treated with over-the-counter-medicines from a pharmacy."
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The new system means there is no need to see a GP or to get a prescription. In fact, pharmacists are highly-trained health professionals. They are experts at specifying treatments and can advise people on conditions that do not need a prescription.
Many patients still believe that a remedy prescribed by a family GP is more effective than the same medicine bought over the counter from a pharmacy. As a rule, this is not the case as often as some people think.
Note: Pharmacists will always recommend that anyone with a serious illness should make a visit to a GP. This would also be their advice if they feel it is necessary.
List of Medicines GPs Stopped Prescribing on the NHS in the United Kingdom