Refusal to Prescribe & NHS Prescription Charge Rise could force People Online to Pharmacies
28th March 2019
Patients may soon find it very difficult to get certain treatments on prescription and instead may have to turn to pharmacies directly for their medication. A chart published by doctors based in Northampton, lists all the minor ailments whereby for treatments, patients may have to pay for themselves over-the-counter at pharmacies or supermarkets. The chart has been published in the wake of NHS England guidance that recommended for certain non-emergency conditions, patients will be forced to buy their treatments from pharmacies instead of being handed a prescription and if exempt from paying prescription charges, essentially receieving free medication/treatment. Some of the conditions included on the list are acne, heartburn, cystitis, conjunctivitis, sunburn, diarrhoea (adults) and many more. It is believed that around 57 million GP appointments are booked each year because of ‘minor’ complaints and it is clear the NHS want to reduce this and free up the space for more serious health complaints. Announcing the changes in 2018, NHS England stated: “The NHS has been spending around £136 million a year on prescriptions for medicines that can be bought from a pharmacy or supermarket, such as paracetamol. “By reducing the amount the NHS spends on over the counter medicines, we can give priority to treatments for people with more serious conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and mental health problems.” CCGs across the country will undoubtedly be aware of the planned changes and will now have to speak to local residents on their own proposals to reduce the quantity of prescriptions issued. It is likely to cause some fierce debate and opposition from locals and maybe some doctors, who could believe that certain symptoms if left untreated, could lead to bigger problems further down the line. Commenting on a social media post featuring the chart, a retired GP said: “I profoundly disagree with this! I agree that many of these complaints are trivial and can be treated with over-the-counter medication, but some of those on the list can also be much more serious conditions. “For example 'conjunctivitis' can be a dendritic ulcer that will cause blindness... “The vast majority of people attending general practice do so appropriately but for everyone that comes with a trivial illness there is also a patient who is seriously ill because they have ignored symptoms they have assumed are trivial. “General practitioners used to be called the gate keepers of the NHS for good reason.” The retired GP was responding to a Facebook post from a Manchester woman who commented: “The NHS is finally saying no! The NHS can no longer absorb the cost of prescriptions for minor ailments and they will no longer be prescribed, people will be expected to buy these things from the pharmacy that are available at a small cost. “I can’t tell you how many times people book in to see a clinician, taking up valuable time, with very minor ailments just so that the medicine will be ‘free’. People need to start taking responsibility for their own health before there is no longer an NHS. I support this 100%.” Her post led to many comments supporting the proposed changes, with one person saying: “About time, some people visit the doctor and also A&E departments every time they get a little twinge. Hopefully this should stop all the time-wasters.” Bury CCG is one of the groups to launch a consultation on which over the counter items should not routinely be prescribed and is asking people to fill in an online survey here before April 12. Dr Jeff Schryer, chair of NHS Bury CCG, said: “This new guidance has given us a chance to review our local policy and our proposal is to update this to align more closely to the new guidance. "We want to capture the views of local people and health care professionals on the plans to ensure that local issues are understood and considered before a decision is made.” The guidance comes as today sees the rise of NHS Prescription charges yet again, increasing by 20p from £8.80 to £9.00 for a single item prescribed, meaning those patients already struggle to afford their healthcare at being put further at risk. To put this into perspective, suitable patients can obtain 2 x Salbutamol asthma inhalers from Medical Specialists® Pharmacy for just £12.95 – or the equivalent of £6.48 an inhaler. In addition, men suffering with Erectile Dysfunction can obtain 32 x Generic Sildenafil 25mg tablets for just £49.40 at Medical Specialists® – or the equivalent of £6.18 for a pack of 4 tablets (£49.40/8). These are just some prices that can make it actually far cheaper obtaining such treatments privately compared to being issued with a NHS Prescription at £9.00 for each individual item. Lloyd Tingley, at Parkinson's UK, and Chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition, said, according to The Sun: "It is extremely disappointing that yet again, the Government plans to increase prescription charges. “Since 2010 the prescription charge has risen by 26 per cent compared to a rise in average earnings of 16 per cent over the same period. “Working age people with long term conditions simply can’t sustain this. “While it is positive that the cost of the Pre-Payment Certificate has been frozen, this is still a large upfront cost for individuals and families who the Government should be helping, not punishing, for having a long-term condition,” he continued. There will undoubtedly be millions of people affected by the price rise and further criticism of the government, especially as the charges only apply to patients in England. Those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to get their treatments free of charge.