Prescription Drugs

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 8th April 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Labour, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the saving to the NHS of reducing the number of prescriptions for over-the-counter medicines.

Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Department has made no such assessment. From December 2017 to March 2018, NHS England carried out a public consultation on reducing prescribing of over-the-counter medicines for minor, short-term health concerns, ‘Conditions for which over the counter items should not routinely be prescribed in primary care: A consultation on guidance for CCGs’ which can be found at the following link:

https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/consultation/over-the-counter-items-not-routinely-prescribed/

At the end of March 2018, NHS England published guidance to enable savings of up to £100 million for frontline care each year by curbing prescriptions for ‘over the counter’ medicines. The guidance does 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.

We are informed by NHS England that in the 12 months to January 2019, the total National Health Service spend in England on over the counter items was £449.4 million. This was a saving on total spend of £25.9 million from the corresponding figure for the 12 months to January 2018, which was £475.3 million. This saving does not account for the potential impact to the NHS from a reduced number of general practitioner appointments, for which no assessment has been made.

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