Blackpool’s Minor Ailments Scheme is to close soon as the NHS encourages people to buy their own medications over the counter.
The Minor Ailments Scheme currently enables patients to access medications such as paracetamol or treatments for bites & stings without the need to visit a GP. It allows some patients to get the medications for free as the NHS picks up the cost.
What the Minor Ailments Scheme costs over the counter
Other over-the-counter products currently prescribed by GPs include remedies for dandruff, indigestion, mouth ulcers and travel sickness.
Each year the NHS nationally spends 4.5 million on dandruff shampoos, £7.5 million on indigestion and heartburn, and £5.5 million on mouth ulcers.
Many of the conditions treated by the scheme are self-limiting. This means they will get better on their own over time. They can be treated easily with simple remedies that are cheap to buy.
Guidance from NHS England issued in March says that curbing routine prescribing for minor, short-term conditions, many of which will cure themselves or cause no long term effect on health, will free up NHS funds for frontline care.
Earlier this year NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced it would be encouraging GPs to no longer prescribe some medications that were of limited clinical value but it maintained the Minor Ailment Scheme.
Minor Ailments Scheme closes from 31 July
The scheme itself was scrutinised in 2017 and following public opinion the number of medications available on the scheme was reduced. Following the guidance from NHS England the CCG is now closing the minor ailment scheme completely from 31 July 2018.
It is hoped the move will encourage more people to self-care and buy their medications cheaply over the counter. For example; paracetamol is less than £1 over the counter (nearer to about 20p). But a prescription costs the NHS around £10 once dispensing and administration costs are included.
Dr Amanda Doyle, a Blackpool GP and Chief Clinical Officer at NHS Blackpool CCG, said: “Self-care, where people manage simple, short-term conditions themselves, is widely acknowledged as an important solution to help keep the NHS sustainable. We want to encourage people to take more responsibility for their health care whether that is in choosing not to go to A&E for a non-life threatening condition or choosing to visit their local pharmacy or supermarket to buy medicines for minor ailments.
“It is not good use of the NHS’s limited resources to issue prescriptions for products which are not clinically effective, or for conditions that will get better without treatment or whose symptoms can be managed with appropriate self-care.
“We recognise that it may be difficult for some patients who have previously been prescribed these products, but it is right that we prioritise our spending on those that provide the best outcomes for patients.”
The removal of the scheme will not affect prescribing of over the counter items for longer term or more complex conditions or where minor illnesses are symptomatic or a side effect of something more serious.
Local pharmacies can offer advice on which treatments are the best and there is a lot of information available online at www.nhs.uk as well as some useful fact sheets covering a range of minor ailments that can be downloaded from the self-care section of www.whyaande.nhs.uk
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