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Edenbridge project update – July 2018

You said we did: routine prescriptions of over the counter medicines in west Kent

User AvatarPosted by Daniel Harper at 15/12/2017 14:09:56

Thank you to everyone who took part in targeted engagement work in west Kent about possible changes to the prescribing of medicines which can be bought over the counter, without a prescription.

From 15 December 2017, GPs in west Kent are being asked to discuss with their patients whether short-term courses of over the counter medicines might be something they could buy rather than have prescribed.

These include, but are not limited to, cough and cold remedies, eyedrops, hayfever medicine, and treatments for diarrhoea and constipation. Painkillers are not included.  

There is no change for people who need repeat prescriptions for over the counter items.

There is also no change for people who would be unable to buy them over the counter.

This might be because of their age (for instance, some medicines are not available for young children without a prescription), or because they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

It might also be because they are housebound, disabled or in a care home, or because the amount of medicine they require is only available on prescription.

The decision to request GPs to have these discussions with patients about some over the counter medicines was taken by NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group’s Governing Body at our meeting on 31 October 2017.

With a limited budget and an increasing demand for services, we at NHS West Kent CCG are evaluating every service we pay for and making decisions about the best value for all our patients. It is the statutory duty of the CCG to do the best we can for the whole of our population with the money we have available.

This year, without change, we face spending about £2.1million on medicines that could be bought from pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations and other retail outlets.

If patients with a short-term minor ailment decided to buy over the counter medication, it would potentially free up £300,000 a year to spend on other health services in west Kent.

We also anticipate it saving some GP appointments, freeing up time for other people to be seen, and encouraging people to make better use of the knowledge and advice offered by pharmacists.

Advice about a range of illnesses, including everyday illnesses such as tummy bugs and coughs and colds, is available at www.nhs.uk.

There is also a Pharmacy First scheme in west Kent, which offers free over the counter medicines for many common illnesses to people who don’t usually pay for their prescriptions.

Our decision follows a careful examination of the evidence by the CCG’s Medicines Optimisation Group, which is led by GPs and includes pharmacists.

It also follows targeted discussions with the public in three areas of west Kent which identified that:

  • 85 per cent of people surveyed who were currently receiving free prescriptions for over the counter medicine would buy items from a pharmacy if their GP asked them
  • 15 per cent of people said that, if one or more of the medicines listed were no longer available on prescription, it would be a problem for them
  • 45 per cent of people felt that the NHS should provide only the most effective drugs and treatment, regardless of what they cost
  • 68 per cent of people felt that none of the listed medicines discussed with them needed to remain on prescription.

Sixty-four per cent of the 274 people who contributed to the discussions, in rural Tunbridge Wells, Park Wood and Shepway South wards in Maidstone, and Sevenoaks, were getting free prescriptions.

Because of the unprecedented savings needing to be made by the CCG in the current financial year, we have taken the decision to ask GPs to start having these discussions now, while the Department of Health is carrying out its own consultation on the prescribing of over the counter medicines, which started on 30 November 2017. We will, of course, take any national guidance on this matter into account, as and when it becomes available.


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