NHS England has decided to scrap 18 “low value” treatments on prescription including herbal remedies, homeopathy and dietary supplements following a consultation, a move the government believes will generate £141 million in annual savings.
GPs and Clinical Commissioning Groups will be told to remove what NHS England described as “ineffective, unsafe and low clinical value treatments” and seven products have also been referred to the Department of Health for blacklisting.
Those seven include homeopathy, herbal treatments, omega-3 fatty acid compounds (fish oil), co-proxamol, rubefacients (excluding topical NSAIDS), lutein and antioxidants and glucosamine and chondroitin.
The measures were based on the firm belief that stopping those items on prescription will not only generate significant efficiency savings but free up millions of GP appointments. GPs issued 1.1 billion prescription items at a cost of £9.2 billion in 2015/16.
“The vast majority were appropriate but many were for medicines, products or treatments that do not require a prescription and can be purchased over the counter from pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations, corner shops or other retailers in some cases at a much lower cost than the price paid by the NHS,” NHS England said.
“The NHS could save around £190 million a year by cutting such prescriptions for minor, short-term conditions, many of which will cure themselves or cause no long term effect on health.”
Its 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.”
Dr Graham Jackson, NHSCC co-chair and clinical chair of NHS Aylesbury Vale CCG, said: “The guidance, which resulted from work we initiated on behalf of our members, will support clinical commissioners in their work to prioritise effectively and make sure they are getting the best value for their medicines spend.
“We were pleased by the volume of responses to the consultation, which gave an opportunity to take into account and reflect the views of public, patients and clinicians and key stakeholders in the final guidance.
“We need to carry on having these honest open conversations on what the NHS can and should provide with the funding it has, so that we can continue to deliver high quality care.”
NHS England will also launch a consultation in the new year on an initial list of over-the-counter products that should no longer be prescribed such as paracetamol, cough mixture and cold treatments, eye drops, laxatives and sun cream lotions.