NHS England has announced a review that could lead prescriptions deemed to be low value such as sun cream and gluten-free foods could soon be unavailable on the NHS in England.

The plan follows extensive work by NHS Clinical Commissioners, who identified significant areas where savings of up to £400 million per year could be made through removing products the NHS prescriptions deemed inappropriate.

NHS England said its review will “seek to address the growing concern over the justification for many low value prescriptions which absorb millions of NHS funding every year, that could be spent on care which has a bigger impact on improving outcomes for patients” .

The organisation is currently working with clinicians and clinical commissioning groups to develop guidelines that will initially involve around a set of 10 medicines considered ineffective, unnecessary, inappropriate for prescription on the NHS, or unsafe. Which combined cost the NHS £128 million per year.

Given the current financial difficulties being experienced by the health service, further work will then look at other medicines which are of relatively low clinical value or priority or are readily available ‘over the counter’ and in some instances, at far lower cost. Such as treatment for coughs, colds, antihistamines, indigestion and heartburn medication and sun cream,

“The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, often for self-limiting or minor conditions, underlines the need for all healthcare professionals to work even closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources, whilst eliminating wastage and improving patient outcomes,” an NHS spokesman said.

“We are in agreement with NHS England that products with low or no clinical evidence of effectiveness should be reviewed with urgency,” said RPS England Chair Sandra Gidley. “We are surprised that homeopathy which has no scientific evidence of effectiveness is not on the list for review. We would also agree that procurement of medicines and other products should be reviewed to try and reduce the costs of medicines to the NHS.”

Although also voiced concern over how a blanket ban of products to treat life-long conditions such as coeliac disease and chronic pain “ could have unintended consequences on those who rely on these treatments to both improve the quality of life.

“In the case of coeliac disease, untreated and undertreated cases can lead to illness, and have been associated with the development of other serious conditions. For those on low incomes ability to pay for products and medicines can be a significant barrier to accessing treatment.”


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