Prescribing of over the counter medicines

The CCG is working with GPs, community pharmacists and patients to support the implementation of NHS England guidance to free up an estimated £100 million for frontline care each year by curbing prescriptions for certain ‘over the counter’ medicines.

Stopping routine prescribing for minor, short-term conditions, many of which will cure themselves or cause no long term effect on health, will free up NHS funds for frontline care.
The guidance will 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.

Each year the NHS spends:

  • £22.8 million on constipation – enough to fund around 900 community nurses
  • £3 million on athletes foot and other fungal infections – enough to fund 810 hip ops
  • £2.8 million on diarrhoea – enough to fund 2912 cataract operations

The new over the counter medicines guidance will curb the routine prescribing of products that are for:

  • A self-limiting condition, which does not require any medical advice or treatment as it will clear up on its own, such as sore throats, coughs and colds
  • A condition that is suitable for self-care, which can be treated with items that can easily be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy, such as indigestion, mouth ulcers and warts and verrucae.

In relation to the exceptions, it is important to highlight:

  • The guidance does not apply to people with long-term or more complex conditions who will continue to get their usual prescriptions.
  • People who receive free prescriptions will not automatically be exempt from the guidance.
  • For patients where the clinician considers that their ability to self-manage is compromised as a consequence of medical, mental health or significant social vulnerability; these patients will continue to receive prescriptions for over the counter items subject to the item being clinically effective.

A wide range of information is available to the public on the subjects of health promotion and the management of minor self- treatable illnesses.  For example on NHS Choices .  

Many community pharmacies are also open extended hours, including weekends, and are ideally placed to offer advice on the management of minor conditions and lifestyle interventions. 

Research shows that in many cases, people can take care of their minor conditions if they are provided with the right information; thereby releasing health care professionals to focus on patients with more complex and/or serious health concerns.

Please click the links below to download patient information leaflets (including Easy Read).
1a-over-the-counter-leaflet-v1.pdf [pdf] 72KB

1b-easy-read-over-the-counter-leaflet.pdf [pdf] 3MB

1c-over-the-counter-patient-info-sheet.pdf [pdf] 43KB

1a-over-the-counter-leaflet-print-ready.pdf [pdf] 106KB