While welcoming NHS England's new consultation on 'Items which not routinely be prescribed in primary care', The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has raised concerns in relation to the proposed restriction on prescribing clinically effective medicines to treat common conditions such as head lice or athlete’s foot.

The consultation proposes that 18 medicines identified by NHS England as having low clinical value should no longer be prescribed on the NHS, and that medicines to treat common health conditions should not be prescribed on the NHS.

While the RPS agrees that ineffective and unsafe medicines should not be prescribed on the NHS and particularly welcomes the inclusion of homeopathy, it believes restricting medicines to treat common conditions would "fundamentally alter the principle that care is free at the point of delivery and as such should be legislated for by Parliament and not implemented by Clinical Commissioning Groups". 

RPS England Board Chair Sandra Gidley commented: “We would encourage people with minor health problems to self-care with the support of a pharmacist and to buy medicines where appropriate and affordable to the individual.

“However, expecting everyone to pay for medicines for common conditions will further increase health inequalities and worsen the health of patients who cannot afford them.  A blanket ban on prescribing of items available to buy will not improve individual quality of life or health outcomes in England.

“Those on low incomes will be disproportionately affected. They should not be denied treatment because of an inability to pay. Longer term costs to the taxpayer of increased ill-health, subsequent GP consultations or visits to A&E must also be taken into account as a result of medicines not having been prescribed.

“In order to reduce pressure on already overworked GPs, as well as out of hours and A&E services, people with minor health problems should be treated via NHS pharmacy minor ailment schemes.

“These schemes enable patients to be treated for minor ailments at no cost from the pharmacy, if they already receive free prescriptions. Such schemes already operate in Scotland and Wales and should be made available across England as soon as possible.”

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