In a bid to cut costs on the number of unnecessary prescriptions issued each year, the NHS will be phasing out the issue of ‘low priority’ prescriptions for items such as silk undergarments and some other kinds of medication and items. Curbing prescriptions could save the NHS up to £68 million a year, freeing up funds to put into other areas of healthcare. If you currently receive prescriptions for treating eczema, diabetes and other conditions, then it’s important to make yourself aware of the changes that could be affecting you soon.
Why are prescriptions being curbed?
Currently, there are many prescriptions being offered to patients that are considered to be ‘low-priority’ to help with conditions such as eczema, diabetes and coeliac disease. A consultation by NHS England has found that these products do not have enough of an impact on the condition to justify prescribing it. In many cases there are also cheaper alternatives now available that can help reduce the cost further.
The aim is to free up some of the cost of issuing these prescriptions to allow the NHS to provide better value for money for taxpayers, and make sure that funds are spent on front-line care.
Curbing prescriptions – who will be affected?
There are several items on the list of prescriptions that will be curbed under the new proposals. Some of these include:
- Silk garments – used by those suffering eczema and dermatitis
- Aliskiren – a drug used to treat blood pressure
- Amiodarone – used to treat abnormal heart rhythms (shown to have low clinical effectiveness)
- Bath and shower emollient preparations used to treat eczema and dermatitis
- Dronedarone – a drug used to treat the heart condition atrial fibrillation
- Minocycline – prescribed to treat acne
- Blood glucose testing strips for type-2 diabetes because of cheaper available options
- Pre-filled needles and reusable insulin pens for type-1 and type-2 diabetes as cheaper options now exist.
For many of these items, there are cheaper alternatives available, while those that are shown to be low in effectiveness can also be replaced with other methods.
Curbing prescriptions is something that has been ongoing in recent months as the NHS looks to save money on items which are available elsewhere. Over the counter medication such as paracetamol and cough medicine are also going to be curbed in order to help the NHS save money.
For years, patients suffering from coeliac disease have been able to order gluten-free products on a prescription basis, which has included items such as bread, pizza and pasta. Patients will still be able to have bread and bread mixes prescribed to them, but not the other items. This is because the provision of gluten-free food has changed dramatically in recent years, and supermarkets and restaurants now offer a much wider range of gluten-free products.
At the moment the proposals are going to consultation until 28 February 2019. Following this, guidance will be published by NHS England and NHS Clinical Commissioners.
What you can do to help curb prescriptions
The subject of prescriptions has come up several times over the last couple of years as the NHS looks to cut costs and reinvest in other areas of healthcare. In East Berkshire, it’s estimated that £1.8 million’s worth of prescriptions are going to waste as a result of people not using their medication. If you no longer need your medication, it is ineffective or you believe you need alternative medication – it’s important that you consult your GP.
Meanwhile, putting your pharmacy first can help you treat a number of conditions at home that will help you to get quicker treatment without needing to visit your local practice. For cold and flu and other non-serious illnesses, you’ll be helping the NHS by practicing self-care.
Remember that pharmacies are able to help you out of hours if you need help outside of normal practice hours. Find out more about your local out of hours services to help you get the help you need, when you need it.