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Self care and over-the-counter products

 

Last year in Bexley we spent £1.4 million on over- the-counter self care products. 

 

Many minor ailments can be treated at home with the support of your local pharmacy if needed. Over the counter products for self care are things like pain relief and cough and cold remedies, and these items can be bought from pharmacies and supermarkets without a prescription.  

By spending less on prescribing these easily-purchased medicines, the NHS in Bexley can spend this money on other NHS treatments. For advice and information on what to do when illness strikes, including when to self care.  

 

Additionally in March 2018, NHS England published guidance about reducing the prescribing of medicines or treatments that are available to buy over the counter. This means that certain medicines may no longer be prescribed if you can buy them over-the-counter. 

GP practices in Bexley will no longer routinely prescribe medicines for self-care that can be bought readily from supermarkets and pharmacies, without a prescription.

 

Conditions included in this change include: 

Acne creams

Eye drops for dry eyes/minor eye conditions

Nappy rash cream

Anti-diarrhoeal medication for

short-term use

 

Painkillers for

short-term pain control

e.g. headaches

Anti-fungal treatment for short-term minor ailments

Hay fever treatments

Sun creams

Anti-perspirants

Head lice and scabies treatment

Threadworm

treatment

Baby colic treatments

Haemorrhoidal preparations for

short-term use

Topical steroids for short-term use for bites, stings or mild dermatitis

Camouflage creams

Indigestion remedies

Vitamins and supplements

Cold sore creams

 

Warts and verruca treatment

Complementary/herbal and alternative preparations

Laxatives for short-term use

Infant formulas (lactose-free, soya-based and ‘staydown’ (anti-reflux) baby milks)

Cough and cold remedies

Mouthwashes and mouth ulcer treatment

Gluten-free products

Emollients (including bath/shower and certain branded emollients)

Ear wax removers

 

 

Why does the NHS want to reduce prescribing of these medicines?  

The NHS has to make difficult choices about what it spends taxpayer money on and how much value the taxpayer is getting for that money. Medicines to treat these conditions are available to buy over the counter. Pharmacists can advise patients on self-care and also on which are the lowest cost versions of medicines available. 

By reducing the amount the NHS spends on treating these minor health conditions, the NHS can give priority to treatments for patients with more serious conditions such as cancer and mental health problems. 

 

What are the benefits of going to the pharmacy instead of making an appointment to see your GP?  

Pharmacists have the knowledge and skills to help with many healthcare conditions, and you don’t need an appointment to speak to a pharmacist. Visiting a pharmacist first helps to make more GP appointments available for people with more complex healthcare needs. 

If you have something more serious, the pharmacist is trained to signpost you quickly to the right medical care.

 

What can you do?  

By keeping certain useful medicines at home you can treat common conditions immediately and you won’t need to see a GP. The medicines you may want to keep at home could include: 

  • A painkiller to help treat minor conditions associated with pain, discomfort and fever
  • Indigestion medicines, oral rehydration salts and treatments for constipation and diarrhoea
  • Treatments for seasonal conditions such as colds and hay fever
  • Sunblock and after sun
  • Some basic first aid items would also be useful 

If you have children make sure you also have products suitable for children. Speak to your pharmacist for advice on what medicines to keep at home, where to store them safely and how to use your medicines. 

Ensuring you have a well-balanced, healthy diet will mean most people don’t need to take vitamin supplements or probiotics. If you do wish to take these products to avoid you becoming deficient, you can buy them from a pharmacy, a supermarket or online.

 

What about patients who need to take medicines for these conditions regularly or in special situations?  

This guidance applies to all patients, including those who would be exempt from paying prescription charges, unless they fall under the reasons outlined below. The main reasons are: 

  • Treatment for a long-term condition, e.g. regular pain relief for chronic arthritis, treatments or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Treatment of more complex forms of minor illnesses, e.g. migraines that are very bad and where over the counter medicines do not work
  • Patients prescribed over the counter medicines to treat a side effect of a prescription medicine or symptom of another illness e.g. constipation when taking certain painkillers
  • The medicine has a licence which doesn’t allow the product to be sold over the counter to certain groups of patients. This may vary by medicine, but could include babies, children or women who are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • The prescriber thinks that a patient cannot treat themselves, for example because of mental health problems or severe social vulnerability (not just having a low income) 

Being exempt from paying a prescription charge does not automatically warrant an exception to the guidance.

 

What if my symptoms don’t improve?   

Your pharmacist can advise on how long you can expect to experience symptoms for the conditions listed.

 

If your symptoms have not improved after this time or you start to feel a lot worse, contact your GP or call 111. A&E and 999 should only be used for life threatening emergencies.

There is lots of advice on the NHS website to help you choose the right service.

 

Where can you find more information and support?  

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