Change to the prescribing of over the counter medicines

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is following new guidance set out by NHS England in March 2018, meaning that for 35 minor, short-term conditions, medicines that are available over the counter will no longer routinely be prescribed.

The guidance has been published following a period of national public consultation and recommends that over the counter medicines associated with minor, short-term conditions which get better by themselves, or can be self-treated by the patient, should no longer be available on NHS prescription.

Medicines under the guidance include treatments for coughs, colds, dandruff, mild cystitis, nappy rash, warts and verrucae, ear wax, head lice and mild dry skin.

In the year prior to June 2017 the NHS spent approximately £569million on prescription medicines, which could have been bought over the counter from a pharmacy or other retail outlet.

Dr Richard Sandford-Hill, Clinical Chair of Wiltshire CCG and GP at Market Lavington Surgery explains:
“It’s no secret that the NHS nationally is feeling the pressure of delivering healthcare services in the face of increasing patient demand and finite financial resources. In Wiltshire it’s no different, which is why as commissioners it’s important that we spend the money we have available in the most effective way that will benefit the most number of people.

“The cost of medicines to the NHS is significantly higher than those available to buy over the counter and because all licensed medicines are regulated by the Medicines and Health Regulatory Authority, they really are as good as your GP can prescribe.

“For this reason we are encouraging people to seek advice from a pharmacist and buy their medicines over the counter where they can.”

There are certain scenarios where certain patients should continue to have their treatments prescribed, including:

  • Patients prescribed an over the counter medicine for a long-term, or more complex condition or;
  • Where a clinician (doctor, nurse, pharmacist) considers that patient’s wellbeing could be affected due to health, mental health or significant social vulnerability.

Patients who contact their GP Practice to make an appointment regarding any of the 35 minor, short-term conditions may be advised by the receptionist to seek advice from a pharmacist instead.

Dr Sandford-Hill continues:
“By not routinely prescribing treatments for the 35 minor, short-term conditions and encouraging people to seek advice from a pharmacist and buy medicines over the counter where they can, means we will also free up valuable GP Practice appointments for those people who really need them.”
Alison Kidner, Community and Practice Pharmacist in Salisbury comments:
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to encourage patients to engage with their community pharmacy teams. Pharmacists are experts in medication and can provide health advice for our customers to help improve their health and wellbeing. The great thing about visiting your pharmacy is that you don’t need to make an appointment and many have a room where you can talk to the pharmacist in private. By visiting the pharmacy it means your GP’s time is freed up for those who really do need an appointment.

“We are all very aware of funding challenges to the NHS and by treating minor, short-term conditions ourselves where we can and by visiting a pharmacy for advice, we can help to save the NHS money. In many cases, the cost of buying a medicine from a pharmacy is cheaper than a prescription charge.”

For more information visit