Doctors to stop prescribing over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers and anti-histamines

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Over-the-counter medicines such as painkillers and anti-histamines will no longer be prescribed by doctors in a bid to cut costs.

Following a consultation, the four Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Groups have approved plans to stop prescribing commonly-available drugs used for short-term, self-limiting conditions.

This change came into force on Monday and patients will instead be encouraged to buy these medicines from supermarkets or pharmacies.

The current NHS prescription charge is £8.40 per item in England. However, children under 16; the over-60s; pregnant women; those in receipt of benefits; and people with specified medical conditions are exempt from paying.

Nationally, around 80 per cent of dispensed items go to those who are exempt – with many people receiving free over-the-counter medicines on prescription.

The four CCGs – Lincolnshire East, Lincolnshire West, South West Lincolnshire and South Lincolnshire – have also approved restrictions on the prescription of gluten-free foods; baby milk including specialist infant formula; and oral nutritional supplements.

Dr Vindi Bhandal, GP and chairman of South West Lincolnshire CCG said: “Essentially, we are saying that people should not expect their GP to prescribe these medicines and products going forwards, unless there is a clinical need to do so.

“Our focus throughout has been on the money we as CCGs spend on items that are readily available over the counter.

“We have a finite amount of money available and a duty to spend this in a way that achieves the best possible outcomes for all of our patients.

“So, when it is possible to buy a box of paracetamol for 20 pence from a supermarket, we think that’s a better option for most people than expecting their GP to prescribe the same thing at a significantly increased cost.

“However, we fully appreciate that there will be instances where a patient’s clinical needs mean that these items will still need to be available on prescription.”

The four CCGs currently spend £16 million per year on over the counter drugs, gluten-free foods, baby milks and oral nutritional supplements.