This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

The waiting game

OTC medication rationing only made a quarter of its targeted savings

NHS spending on over-the-counter (OTC) medication in England fell by £25.9m, despite promises of up to £100m in savings.

In March last year, NHS England issued guidance to CCGs to ‘free up’ up to £100 million by reducing the number of prescriptions for OTC medicine.

A few months after the guidance was published, Pulse revealed GPs were having to deal with more patient complaints as a result of their OTC rationing.

NHS England recently issued a ‘letter of comfort’ to GPs, reassuring them they would not be ‘at risk of breaching their contract’ if they refused to prescribe OTC medication.

However, in the 12 months to January 2019, the NHS spent £449.4 million on OTC medication. That is a total of £25.9 million in savings, compared with the £475.3 million the NHS spent the previous year.

The figures were revealed in a written statement by health minister Seema Kennedy last week.

She said: ‘This saving does not account for the potential impact to the NHS from a reduced number of GP appointments, for which no assessment has been made.’

The guidance outlined its proposals for CCGs to curb routine prescribing of 35 minor, short-term conditions such as constipation, diarrhoea and athlete’s foot.

The goal at the time, according to NHSE was that the rationing ’will free up NHS funds for frontline care.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • How does Seema calculate that this has ‘reduced number of GP appointments’? If anything, it has increased appts as the punters come in to find out why they can’t have their paracetamol caplets. As usual there has been no measurement of the opportunity cost

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • GPs are free (sort of?).
    So is knowledge of 'Psychology of Influence and Persuasion', Roberto Cialdini 1984.
    If HMG, NHSE, CCG, NICE, GMC, RCGP or any other idiotic organisation wants OTC to be restricted, then they should sort the legality of that restriction. But they won't, as none of them has the moral courage (or wants to decrease their prospects of a professorship or a gong).

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • David Banner

    OTC......blacklist them or shut up.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Agree with David Banner above.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As always, David Banner speaks with clarity

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 'Letter of comfort' rubbish - GPs who refuse to give a prescription ' on the prescribed form' when necessary ARE in breach of NHS regulations, until the regulations are CHANGED!
    They are also at high risk of complaints!
    Not worth the risk!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • LMC advice says different. If you feel it is necessary you will need to prescribe for if the patient complains or something goes wrong, GMC and CCG will certainly add fire to the fuel and not defend you. Money saved = manager promotion. If they want rationing, change the rules of the quangos so we can practice with confidence not letters of comfort.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say