Why everyone should have their say on what should be available on prescription
NHS England is running an important consultation to look at stopping 18 medicines it says are 'low-value' being prescribed by GP practices. This is because the NHS cannot afford to pay for medicines that don't work, cost too much or are not effective.
The consultation is about guidance that is being developed for local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group will use this guidance to inform the advice that they issue to your doctor about what should be available to you on prescription.
Importantly, the consultation outlines medicines that can be considered a low priority for NHS funding and that means some of the items currently available to you on prescription may not be in the future. This includes medicines that are available at a low cost from over the counter.
On the surface, the issues may seem simple. However, this consultation will set the tone for future consultations to reduce prescriptions for drugs that can be bought over the counter. This includes medicines like paracetamol, skin creams and laxatives. For many people, this may seem trivial but for those who need to use these medicines on a regular basis, like people with eczema using skin creams, it may not. For some people, paying for regular treatments out of their own pockets may feel impossible.
It is important to remember that this document is guidance and GPs cannot be ‘banned’ from prescribing medicines they feel are clinically appropriate for the patient.
Imelda Redmond, the National Director for Healthwatch England, wrote an article called “Let them eat rice cake?” (available to read here) that draws attention to this important national consultation.
We know that the NHS is under big financial pressures and understand the case for change. We are supportive of local NHS led campaigns to reduce the amount of money spent on prescribing locally by encouraging people to buy low cost medicines over the counter when they can afford it.
Our job is to make sure that you can have a say in decisions concerning local NHS and care services. We will be watching this issue with interest. We will remind our local NHS leaders about the importance of involving people in a conversation about the effect such changes may have on their lives.