Home Menu

NHSE guidance on prescribing over-the-counter medications

In March NHSE published guidance regarding the prescribing of OTC medications. This guidance suggests that the NHS could save £100m per year if medications available OTC were not prescribed.

In many circumstances it is appropriate to encourage patients to purchase their own medications, and for care homes to have Homely Remedies policies to allow the administration of medications for their residents. This encourages self-care, reduces the need for clinician input, and could save costs for the NHS.

However, there is no obligation for GPs to refuse to prescribe OTC medications if they feel that this appropriate. The NHSE guidance specifically states:

  • The guidance does not apply to people with long-term or more complex conditions who will continue to get their usual prescriptions
  • For patients where the clinician considers that their ability to self-manage is compromised as a consequence of medical, mental health or significant social vulnerability; these patients will continue to receive prescriptions for over the counter items subject to the item being clinically effective

BMA guidance in response to NHSE states:

“It is already a basic part of a GP’s job to help patients to care for their own minor illnesses, and to explain the availability and proper use of over-the-counter preparations. This is useful guidance regarding those situations where advice about self-care may be all that a patient needs. However as there has been no change to the regulations that govern GP prescribing this guidance cannot be used by Clinical Commissioning Groups to ban all such treatments. GPs must continue to treat patients according to their individual circumstances and needs, and that includes issuing prescriptions where there are reasons why self-care is inappropriate. This guidance does make it clear that such requirements continue to apply in individual situations.”