The Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) is calling for the introduction of ‘recommendation prescriptions’ to be used by doctors across the UK to help people to self-care and reduce pressure on stretched NHS services.

The ‘recommendation prescriptions’ are designed for GPs to recommend appropriate over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and self-care advice for people with self-treatable conditions.

The NHS is overstretched and facing increasing demand, especially in primary care, where waiting times for GP appointments can be as long as three weeks. NHS officials recently published guidance[i] advising GPs not to prescribe over-the-counter medicines to people with self-treatable conditions and to encourage people to self care, in a move designed to save money and free up GPs’ time to deal with more serious health concerns.

The ‘recommendation prescriptions’ are one of a range of measures PAGB believes are necessary to give people the support they need to self care.

John Smith, PAGB chief executive, said: “Our research shows almost a third of people (32%) are visiting the GP for minor health concerns, such as a sore throat when self care would be much quicker and more convenient for the individual. When asked the reasons why they visited their GP instead of a pharmacist, 42% said it was so they could get a prescription to treat symptoms, and 36% wanted expert healthcare advice.

“This clearly demonstrates a need for these ‘recommendation prescriptions’, which will give people the information they want to be able to self care with confidence.

“OTC medicines play an important role in helping people manage symptoms of self-treatable conditions so they can get on with their day. However, many people lack the knowledge on which medicines are available without a prescription and look to their GP for advice. The NHS is asking GPs to stop prescribing treatments for these conditions, but this needs to be backed up with information and support to help people to self care.”

Practising GP and media medic, Dr Sarah Jarvis, commented: “The introduction of ‘recommendation prescriptions’ is a simple but effective initiative that would support GPs to promote self care. Patients are looking for advice on the best way to treat symptoms and in cases where a prescription is not appropriate, I often write down useful websites or information about OTC medicines on scraps of paper, so a ‘recommendation prescription’ would be useful for me, and would provide my patients with the reassurance they’re looking for.

“In my practice, we routinely ask patients to buy OTC medicines from the pharmacy rather than writing a prescription. We try hard to encourage people not to consult their GP in the first place for minor illnesses, such as conjunctivitis, thrush, and occasional heartburn, but appreciate that some people still want the reassurance of a doctor’s advice.”

The proposed ‘recommendation prescriptions’ would include space for GPs to write details of the minor illness, any self-care advice and details of OTC medicines they recommend the patient purchases via a pharmacy, where appropriate.

John Smith added: “It’s reassuring that the NHS is looking at solutions to encourage people to self care, but more still needs to be done. Supporting people to self care for self-treatable conditions is essential for the future of the NHS, both in terms of reducing costs and demand as well as ensuring people are seen by the right healthcare professional at the right time.”

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