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GPs should prescribe OTC medicines to people struggling to pay


GPs should prescribe OTC medicines to people struggling to pay

A report by Healthwatch England has urged the government to encourage GPs to prescribe over-the-counter medicines to patients who cannot afford them in a report the patient watchdog claims offers solutions to the cost-of-living crisis that is affecting millions.

Healthwatch, a committee of the Care Quality Commission that gathers the views of people who use health and social care services, said OTC medicines should be offered to patients on prescription based on “socioeconomic grounds.”

Healthwatch’s recommendations, which also includes getting NHS England to re-open its review of the Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme and reimburse patients for the cost of their trips to GPs, dentists and pharmacies, follow a poll of 2,000 adults in England it carried out between October last year and March that found people are “increasingly avoiding vital health and care services due to the fear of extra costs.”

Those costs, it said, included trips to the dentist because of the cost of checks-ups or treatment, the associated costs of booking an NHS appointment, taking up one or more NHS prescriptions and buying OTC medicines.

“As a patient champion, we are worried that vital health and care services are out of reach for many people,” the report said.

“We know that people living with ill health and disability are already much more likely than others to be pulled into poverty because of spiralling costs.

“Making decisions between eating, medications and keeping medical devices running, can further impact their physical and mental health, putting them in danger.”

Healthwatch’s recommendation on OTC medicines is at odds with NHS England’s stance on the matter. Five years ago, it said GPs should not prescribe OTC medicines for 35 minor ailments and self-limiting conditions such as diarrhoea in adults, indigestion and heartburnand mouth ulcers.

However, Pulse reported that GPs across England had told it that “more and more patients” are coming to them with requests for OTC prescriptions because “they have no money to buy them.”

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