Doctors in North Yorkshire are to stop issuing a prescription for medicines that patients can buy themselves over-the-counter for a range of minor, short-term health concerns.
From October 1, patients will instead be encouraged to visit their local pharmacy for advice and treatments for common ailments like coughs and colds, aches and pains, hay fever and sunburn.
NHS bosses say there is no need to make an appointment to see a member of a pharmacy team, making it quicker and easier for patients.
They say the new system will help free up GP appointment slots for those who need them most.
Some of the products to treat minor, short-term illnesses can be purchased over-the-counter at a lower cost than that which would be incurred by the NHS.
Some medicines are also available from other retail outlets such as supermarkets, convenience stores and health food stores. These are usually general sales list items and can be purchased without advice from a pharmacist.
NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says it has now adopted the over-the-counter medicines guidance from NHS England, in line with other CCGs across the Humber, Coast and Vale integrated care system.
The guidance does not affect the prescribing of over-the-counter treatments for long-term conditions or more complex conditions, or where minor illnesses are a symptom or side effect of a more serious condition.
Last year, the NHS in North Yorkshire spent more than £4 million on prescription items that are available over-the-counter. Across the NHS, it’s around £140 million. By reducing the amount of money it spends on over-the-counter medicines, the NHS says it can give priority to treatments for people with more serious conditions such as cancer, diabetes and mental illness.
Dr Tim Rider, NHS North Yorkshire CCG clinical lead for prescribing, said: “Our NHS services are precious and by buying medicines over-the-counter for minor health concerns from your local pharmacy or supermarket, rather than obtaining them on prescription, we can make more efficient use of NHS resources and free up more GP appointments for people who need them most.
“Having home remedies to hand ensures people can self-manage minor illness or injury.
“Medicines to keep in stock include pain relief tablets, antiseptic cream, cough remedies and antihistamines.”
Visit www.prescriptionchanges.co.uk for more information about the prescribing changes and for a full list of conditions for which over-the-counter medicines will no longer be routinely prescribed.