Campaign highlights medicines we need to buy for ourselves

People in Norfolk and Waveney are being reminded not to ask their doctor for everyday medicines like paracetamol as part of a campaign designed to help the NHS make the best use of its resources

NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are asking people to buy their own medicines from a pharmacy or supermarket for common conditions such as hay fever, diarrhoea, indigestion, cold sores, nappy rash, warts, verrucas and headlice.

This is now a national NHS policy, put into place following a public consultation run by NHS England. GPs still have the discretion to prescribe items depending on clinical circumstances, such as when combinations of medication could be complex or for people who take large quantities of medicines to manage a long-term condition which their GP is monitoring.

Dr Liam Stevens, a GP and chair of NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG, said: “The NHS only has a finite amount of money and a duty to spend it in a way that achieves the best possible outcomes for all of our patients. That is why we think it is a better option for most people to self-care for minor problems by buying a box of paracetamol for 20 or 30 pence from a supermarket rather than expecting their GP to prescribe the same thing at a significantly increased cost to the NHS.

“By doing so, you will also help our GPs to make best use of their time so that they can prioritise appointments for higher risk patients, such as those with complex needs, the very young and elderly and those with long-term conditions.

“Doing your bit is simple, so please help your NHS by caring for yourself wherever possible and buying your own medicines so that we can make the best use of our resources for the benefit of everyone in Norfolk and Waveney.”

Figures show the local NHS spent £5.7m last year on remedies which could have been purchased over the counter for a fraction of the price.

Of this, £800,000 was used for muscle pain medication which costs just £1.60 for patients to buy themselves. A total of £666,000 went on allergy medication, while a further £2m was spent on moisturising lotions – money which could have paid for 339 hip replacement operations.

Dr Paul Williams, chair of West Norfolk CCG, said: “Your first port of call if you’re suffering with a minor illness should always be your pharmacist. They are highly-trained healthcare professionals who can offer help and advice about a huge range of common illnesses without booking an appointment, as well as recommending the right medication to help you to self-care at home.

“By speaking to them first, you could also save yourself a visit to your GP and help free up appointments for other patients in greater need.”

If your GP practice asks you to pop to the pharmacist to buy an everyday medicine for yourself, the NHS is asking people to understand they are simply following national and local policy, required by NHS England and the CCGs.