NHS decision to limit over the counter prescriptions is worthwhile, says Shropshire pharmacy expert

Proposals to save the NHS millions by limiting items available on prescription have been hailed as worthwhile by a Shropshire pharmacist.

Martin Lunt, who owns Lunts Pharmacies with two branches in Shrewsbury and branches in Pontesbury and Craven Arms, said he hoped the NHS England consultation would be brought into effect.

It would mean Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who oversee GP surgeries would be advised not to allow some over the counter items to be routinely prescribed.

Medication for a total of 35 mild conditions including sore throats, coughs and colds and diarrhoea would be included in the new rules but exceptions would apply.

Mr Lunt said given over £550 million was spent in one year (June 2016 to June 2017) on prescriptions for items which could be purchased over the counter, something had to be done especially given the mounting pressure on the NHS.

“We know there are patients getting prescriptions for minor conditions including a build up of earwax, head lice and indigestion when they could get advice and exactly the same medication from the pharmacy,” he added.

“The new rules would have to be carefully managed to ensure no one who is vulnerable or unable to afford medication over the counter is negatively affected, but I believe the CCGs and NHS England will be able to work together to achieve that while saving the NHS millions of pounds, money which could be used to fund much-needed doctors and nurses.

“Treatments for the conditions included in the report are readily available in pharmacies and it seems many people simply do not think of the cost to the NHS when opting to seek a prescription for them rather than purchasing them over the counter.”

The consultation report includes the example of 12 anti-sickness tablets being available for £2.18 from a pharmacy. The same medication would cost the NHS £3 to prescribe, or a total of £35 when including the GP consultation and other admin costs associated with an appointment.