“We understand the financial pressures the NHS is facing and the need therefore to ensure that the medicines bill is used as efficiently as possible. This is an important debate but one which needs to be had in a much wider context.
“We believe that the priority should be on identifying and implementing opportunities to empower more people to appropriately self care for self treatable conditions. This would help to reduce the number of unnecessary GP consultations and A&E visits each year for ailments that people could treat at home, or with advice from a pharmacist, using an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine.
“PAGB recently conducted research with 5,000 UK adults, which found that 80 per cent of people would be more likely to seek advice from pharmacists and use OTC remedies for coughs, colds and other self-treatable conditions, if they understood the cost of these medicines to the NHS .
“However, some medicines that are available OTC to manage self-treatable conditions are also prescribed for the treatment of long-term or more serious illnesses, or, in the case of nicotine replacement therapy, to prevent illness, disability and NHS costs in the future. Therefore, healthcare professionals should be able to continue to use their clinical judgement on appropriate prescribing in these circumstances. In addition, any change in prescribing policy may have a disproportionate effect on vulnerable groups.
“PAGB believes, therefore, that while the review of prescriptions for medicines available to purchase OTC is appropriate; it is important that NHS England does not simply opt for a one-size fits all solution.”