Making positive financial savings by introducing a new policy

Monday, November 12, 2018


NHS England estimated that limiting the prescribing of over the counter medicines nationally for minor, short-term conditions could free up £136 million of national NHS funds for frontline care.

In 2016-2017 we spent £14,384 in south Sefton on prescriptions for over the counter painkillers like paracetamol.

A national consultation was launched in December 2017 calling for views on whether prescribing of over the counter (OTC) medicines should stop.

We shared NHS England’s online survey and the proposal document on our website and social media encouraging Sefton residents to get involved and have their say.

Our head of medicines management also spoke to residents at our Big Chat event in September 2017 to get their views to inform our local response to the consultation on the prescribing of OTCs. She also raised awareness of the exercise when speaking with local patient and community groups.   

What people told us

There was a great deal of support at our Big Chat event in September 2017 about the changes and there was agreement that there would be positive financial benefits to bringing this policy in.  

Some responses suggested an awareness that while paracetamol (for example) is cheap to buy it is comparably expensive to prescribe.

One patient said “there’s no benefit of going to the GP just for a prescription”.

Some key concerns were in consideration of those people who may not be able to afford OTC medicines and for families whose needs and costs would likely be higher.

It was also suggested that people who cannot afford OTC  medicines would still need to attend the GP when they needed a prescription and therefore it would not reduce the number of GP attendances.

Many respondents said that vulnerability had to be taken into account. One person said: “It’s a good idea [stopping over the counter medications] as long as vulnerable groups are not affected.”

How we responded

As a result of the views we received and the results of the NHS England consultation  we developed a medicines self care policy for Sefton and launched this during self care week (12 – 18 November 2018).

The policy explains that over the counter medicines will no longer be routinely prescribed across Sefton. It responds to people’s views around affordability and vulnerability, setting out some clear exemptions to this new approach to over the counter medicines.  

The launch included going out to different community groups to talk about the changes, issuing a press release to local papers and creating a leaflet to display in our GP practices and pharmacies. We also created a self care medicines policy describing the changes.

As part of the launch in self care week we explained to residents that GPs, nurses and pharmacists are no longer recommended to routinely prescribe over the counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses in our medicines self care policy.

It was made clear that there are exceptions to the guidance detailed in the policy and more vulnerable patients will still be able to access the CCG commissioned minor ailment scheme, Care at the Chemist.

We shared short video clips of our head of medicines management and pharmacists discussing the changes along with a video of Councillor Catie Page who supported our new policy on social media.

Our medicines management team has been feeding back to patient and community groups about how their views have helped to shape our self care policy and to raise awareness of the changes.  

Supporting information

You can find out more about the exercise here.

You can read the self-care policy here.

Watch a short video supporting the exercise

To see the full playlist of videos for our over the counter medicines self care policy, please visit our YouTube channel.