NHS England has agreed plans to save up to £141 million a year by recommending low value treatments, such as fish oil, herbal remedies and homeopathy, no longer be provided on the NHS.
A consultation on curbs to prescriptions for some ‘over the counter’ products, such as paracetamol, cough mixture and cold treatments, eye drops, laxatives and sun cream lotions, will also be launched in the New Year.
In 2015/16, GPs issued 1.1 billion prescription items at a cost of £9.2 billion. The vast majority were appropriate but many were for medicines, products or treatments that do not require a prescription, and can be purchased over the counter from pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations, corner shops or other retailers, in some cases at a much lower cost than the price paid by the NHS.
These plans will also free up millions of GP appointments that are currently taken up with prescribing these medicines.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “The NHS is one of the most efficient health services in the world but we’re determined to make taxpayers’ money go further. The NHS should not be paying for low value treatments and it’s right that we look at reducing prescriptions for medicines that patients can buy for a fraction of the price the NHS pays.”