GPs in east Lancashire are the latest to face a curb on prescribing of over-the-counter medication.
The ‘restrictions’ came in from 1 October in a bid by NHS East Lancashire CCG to save £1 million – 40% of its £2.5 million annual bill for OTC items.
Under the new measures GPs will stop prescribing treatments and medicines for short-term, minor conditions or ‘where there is insufficient evidence that they improve symptoms or where they aren’t value for money’.
The list of medication that GPs should try to avoid prescribing includes paracetamol, antihistamines, moisturisers and ear wax removers.
The move follows a public consultation earlier this year. The CCG said it was supported by patients who want the cash spent on essential services such as A&E and GP appointments.
It is also encouraging self-care, and patients are being directed to get advice from their pharmacy.
Jackie Hanson, deputy chief officer and chief nurse at NHS East Lancashire CCG, said: ‘It is important that everyone using NHS service appreciates the pressures we face in securing high quality local health services whilst dealing with the growing demand and the associated cost.’
She added: ‘These restrictions are only in place for patients with short-term and minor medical ailments.’
Peter Higgins, the chief executive of Lancashire and Cumbria consortium of LMCs, told Pulse: ‘We have been assured that this is not a “ban” and GPs can prescribe what they think is clinically appropriate for their patients. Our LMCs have seen the sense of this and our GPs will use common sense in applying these new policies.’
He said some GPs were concerned about complaints from patients who have been prescribed an item in the past and about the risk of referrals to the GMC or an allegation of breach of contract.
‘We have tried to give reassurance to GPs expressing such concerns and emphasised to them that if the circumstances of the patient justify prescribing of these items then they should do so.’
This follows moves by other CCGs to curb OTC prescribing, including NHS Dudley CCG, NHS Barking and Dagenham CCG, NHS Bedfordshire CCG, and NHS Croydon CCG which launched ‘Choosing Wisely Policies’ along with other south London CCGs.