Patients may not be able to get painkillers on the NHS

Patients may no longer be able to get painkillers, cough mixture and eye drops on the NHS as bosses call to axe ‘wasteful’ prescriptions to save money.

Discussions will take place in the new year over restricting prescriptions for treatments that are readily available in pharmacies, supermarkets and petrol stations.

This comes after officials agreed to drop 13 ‘ineffective, over-priced and low-value treatments’, with five therapies only being prescribed in exceptional circumstances.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘The NHS should not be paying for low-value treatments and it’s right that we look at reducing prescriptions for medicines that patients can buy for a fraction of the price the NHS pays.’ 

Yet, Don Redding, director of policy at National Voices, a coalition of 160 health and care charities, argued: ‘This would risk adversely affecting those people who currently get free prescriptions, which includes some of the most vulnerable in our society and those who are “just about managing”.’

Patients may no longer be able to get painkillers on the NHS due to prescriptions cuts

Patients may no longer be able to get painkillers on the NHS due to prescriptions cuts

Patients may no longer be able to get painkillers on the NHS due to prescriptions cuts

WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN CUT FROM THE PRESCRIPTION LIST?

The list of 13 items that will no longer be routinely prescribed include:

  • Homeopathy: Costs the health service in England around £92,412 each year
  • Herbal treatments: Cost the NHS £100,009 annually
  • Omega-3 fish oil: Can be obtained via diet. Costs the health service £6,317,927 a year
  • Painkiller Co-proxamol: Has safety concerns; costs the NHS more than £9 million annually
  • Supplements glucosamine and chondroitin: Prescribed for pain in osteoarthritis patients; costs £444,535 a year 
  • Vitamins A, C, E and zinc for age-related macular degeneration: Cost £1,500,000 annually  

Plans to cut ‘wasteful’ prescriptions  

Officials announced plans to consult over medicines for various ailments that can be prescribed by GPs but are available in pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations, corner shops and other retailers.

These include treatments for cold sores, conjunctivitis, coughs and colds, cradle cap, haemorrhoids, infant colic, dandruff, diarrhoea, ear wax, mild indigestion, malaria prevention, minor burns and scalds, and minor pain such as headache.

Treatments for mouth ulcers, nappy rash, ringworm, head lice, mild toothache, travel sickness, and warts and verrucae could also be restricted, along with vitamins and minerals. 

Certain supplements and painkillers have already been axed after NHS England approved part of its review on ‘wasteful’ prescriptions. 

‘The NHS should not be paying for low-value treatments’ 

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘The NHS is one of the most efficient health services in the world but we’re determined to make taxpayers’ money go further.

‘The NHS should not be paying for low-value treatments and it’s right that we look at reducing prescriptions for medicines that patients can buy for a fraction of the price the NHS pays.’

Yet, according to Don Redding, director of policy at National Voices, a coalition of 160 health and care charities, said: ‘If taken forward, these plans could mean that some treatments are only available to those who can afford them.

‘This would risk adversely affecting those people who currently get free prescriptions, which includes some of the most vulnerable in our society and those who are “just about managing”.

‘Yes, there are difficult decisions for the NHS to make, but the rationing of treatments should not be targeted at those most in need and those already living on a financial knife-edge.’

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