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Over the Counter Medications

Medication available over the counter at Pharmacies and not on a Prescription

NHS England recently carried out a public consultation on reducing prescribing of over-the-counter medicines for minor, short-term health concerns.

These prescriptions include items for a condition:

  • That is considered to be self-limiting and so does not need treatment as it will heal of its own accord;
  • Which lends itself to self-care, i.e. that the person suffering does not normally need to seek medical care but may decide to seek help with symptom relief from a local pharmacy and use an over the counter medicine.

Vitamins/minerals and probiotics have also been included in the consultation proposals as items of limited clinical effectiveness which are of high cost to the NHS.

Last year 21.6 million prescription items were dispensed for patients covered by the Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at a cost of £185 million. The CCG Policy for items which should not routinely be prescribed in primary care help us to make sure that we make wise use of NHS prescribing resources for the benefit of everyone.

This policy sets out the CCG’s position on 18 products previously available on NHS prescription in Birmingham and Solihull, each of which falls into one of the following categories:

  • Products of low clinical effectiveness, where there is a lack of robust evidence of clinical effectiveness, or there are significant safety concerns
  • Products which are clinically effective but where more cost-effective options are available, including products which have been subject to excessive price inflation
  • Products which are clinically effective, but due to the nature of the product, are deemed low priority for NHS funding.

It is based on the NHS England/NHS Clinical Commissioners Items which should not routinely be prescribed in primary care: Guidance for CCGs, and covers the following products:

The policy sets out more information regarding the approach to each of the products and you can also find out more by reading the patient information above.

GP practices will no longer start new prescriptions for these products and, over the coming months, will be reviewing patients already receiving prescriptions. As always, they will use their clinical skills and judgement in caring for individual patients, whilst making best use of NHS resources for the benefit of all patients. Practices will be contacting patients in due course, and there is no need to make an appointment before this unless you have concerns over your condition.

CCGs have limited budgets which are used to commission healthcare that meets the reasonable requirements of their patients. This policy helps us to prioritise resources using the best evidence about what is clinically effective, to provide the greatest proven health gain for the whole of the CCG’s population. Our intention is to ensure access to NHS funding is equal and fair, whilst considering the needs of the overall population and evidence of clinical and cost effectiveness.

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