Background

In recent years, the NHS as a whole has spent millions of pounds on prescribing medicines that could have otherwise been purchased by patients at a cheaper price from a supermarket or other retail outlet. 

At the end of 2017, NHS England - the national body responsible for leading the health service, as well as implementing changes - launched a consultation which asked patients and the public how they would feel if less was spent on medicines for common conditions that can be safely treated at home. 

There was a favourable response to the proposals and in March 2018, NHS England introduced a list of 33 illnesses that GPs, including those working in Swindon, will no longer be able to prescribe medicines for. 

Among the conditions included on the list were: 

  • Sore throats
  • Cold sores
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Coughs and nasal congestion
  • Cradle cap
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Mild cystitis 
  • Dandruff
  • Diarrhoea in adults
  • Head lice
  • Indigestion and heartburn 
  • Mild acne
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Travel sickness

The full list of conditions can be seen by clicking here

In essence, the common minor illnesses and ailments that make up the list can be defined as either self-limiting (a condition that will clear up on its own without any medical advice or treatment) or suitable for self care (a condition that can be easily treated with a product purchased from a pharmacy or supermarket). 

Elsewhere, NHS England have also introduced restrictions on the prescription of vitamins, minerals, probiotics and other items of limited clinical effectiveness. 

 

What this means in Swindon

The new prescribing rules mean that GPs in Swindon can now no longer issue prescriptions for conditions that can be easily taken care of through self care. 

For patients already familiar with looking after themselves at home, these new rules will not have a significant impact on their overall health and wellbeing, nor on the way in which they access healthcare. 

People who would have previously defaulted to contacting their GP when feeling unwell with one of the conditions identified by NHS England are now encouraged to:

  • Seek help online from the NHS Choices website, which contains advice and information for a wide range of medical conditions, as well as signposts to further information
  • Visit a local pharmacist, who can provide guidance on common minor illnesses and even carry out a private consultation
  • Have a well-stocked medicine cabinet containing everyday treatments, such as plasters, paracetamol, indigestion tablets and cold and flu capsules

 

Exceptions to the new rules

Although the new rules are intended to cover all patients registered at a GP surgery in Swindon and Shrivenham, there are some scenarios in which people will still be prescribed medicines and treatments as before.

Some of these scenarios are listed below:

  • When a patient has been prescribed an over-the-counter medicine for a long-term condition (e.g. regular pain relief for chronic arthritis)
  • When a patient is suffering from a more severe form of a minor illness (e.g. severe migraines that do not respond to standard pain relief)
  • When a clinician believes that a patient does not have the ability or capacity to safely self-care, such as people with learning disabilities 
  • When a patient has a particular set of complex health needs, such as people with immunodeficiency disorders

The full list of exceptions can be seen by clicking here

 

Further information and resources

Find out more about the changes by clicking on the link in the menu on the left-hand side of this page.