Manage self-treatable conditions at home with the correct medicine cabinet

Published on: 13 July 2016


From coughs and colds to hayfever and headaches, over the course of the year it’s more than likely that you and members of your family will experience a self-treatable condition on more than one occasion. These conditions are mostly short term and can usually be managed quickly and effectively at home, or after seeking advice from a pharmacist, by using appropriate (and often inexpensive) over-the-counter (OTC) medicines – yet many people still visit their GP or local A&E department for information or reassurance.

Over the last five years there have been over 285 million GP consultations and more than 10 million A&E visits for self-treatable conditions, costing the NHS over £10 billion[1]. However, if people had sought advice from a pharmacist in the first instance, they could have effectively treated these conditions themselves, saving them both time and hassle. Self care costs the consumer £0 – £3.50 on average, but the cost incurred to the NHS is approximately £112 for A&E treatments and £43 for a consultation with a GP lasting 11.7 minutes[2]. When medication is prescribed, the NHS also bears the added cost of the dispensing fee to the pharmacist (currently £0.90 per item[3]), plus the cost of the medication.

If people are prepared and have the correct OTC medicines at home to treat common conditions, such as short-term headaches, diarrhoea and coughs, then it allows them to relieve symptoms faster and also empowers them to deal with unexpected minor injuries and illnesses at any given time.

Pharmacist Steve Riley suggests the OTC medicines you should consider having to hand in your medicine cabinet for the conditions you and your family regularly experience:

Pharmacist Steve Riley says:

“The suggested OTC medicines are ideal to treat and manage the symptoms associated with short term, minor conditions. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your local community pharmacist for advice. They will review your symptoms; advise you if you need any medication to treat a condition, or if a trip to the GP, walk in centre or even A&E is required. They will also advise you if you don’t require any medication at all.”

Steve also recommends that there are some symptoms you should always get checked:

John Smith, Chief Executive of PAGB (Proprietary Association of Great Britain) comments:

“Many people have kept the same medicines in their cupboard for years and don’t consider the fact that the medicines could be out of date or have been stored incorrectly, until they feel unwell and look in their medicine cabinet to see what they can find.

“Medicines should be stored as per the instructions on the pack, usually in a cool, dry place and if there are young children in the house then they should be kept up high and out of easy reach. It’s also important to check the expiry dates of medicines as each product will be able to be stored for a specific amount of time once opened. If you need to dispose of any medicines, opened or not, then they should always be returned to a pharmacy for safe disposal and they should never be recycled or used by anyone else. It’s important to never dispose of your unwanted medicines down the sink or toilet and always ask a pharmacist if you are unsure[11] .

“When managing self-treatable conditions, we would always encourage people to use OTC medicines in accordance with the clear on pack instructions and as per the patient information leaflet. If people have any urgent medical questions, then we would advise them to speak to their local pharmacist. Pharmacists are highly trained expert healthcare professionals and will be able to tell you if you need to visit your GP or your local A&E department.

“By being prepared and storing the appropriate medicines correctly and safely, people will be able to manage self treatable conditions much more effectively and efficiently.”


[1] IMS Minor Ailment Workload in General Practice and IMS study of self-treatable conditions presenting in A&E units 2015
[3] Taken from July 2016 drug tariff
MEDIA RELEASE: Manage self-treatable conditions at home with the correct medicine cabinet