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Prescription changes could free up GP time and make better use of pharmacies

Family doctors across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are to stop routinely prescribing medicines for minor ailments and encourage people to make better use of community pharmacies.

Many minor ailments can be treated with over-the-counter remedies that can be bought from a pharmacy.

The move will give GPs more time to spend with patients with more serious medical conditions. It will also encourage patients to make better use of community pharmacies, where there is no need for an appointment and where highly trained pharmacists are able to offer free advice.

Dealing with minor conditions is a major issue for the NHS. It is estimated that in England over £550 million is spent by the NHS annually on medicines for a range of conditions including self-limiting conditions. Often these will get better of their own accord after a short period or lend themselves to self-care, with patients easing symptoms using over-the-counter medicines.

NHS England led a major public consultation into the prescribing of over-the-counter remedies which ended earlier this year.

Dr Manir Hussain, Deputy Director of Primary Care & Medicines Optimisation at North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent CCGs, said: “We want to help educate people that many common conditions can be treated with over-the-counter-medicines from a pharmacy. There is no need to see a GP or get a prescription. Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals who are experts in medicines and are able to advise on what conditions can be treated without a prescription. They will also advise if they think a visit to a GP is necessary.

“Some people think that a remedy prescribed by a GP will be more effective than the same medicine bought over the counter, but often this is not the case.”

There is also a range of other NHS advice available such as NHS111 which provides telephone advice and the NHS Choices website.

The most common conditions that can be managed by over-the-counter remedies include:

  • Acute sore throat
  • Cold sores
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Coughs, colds and nasal congestion
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Infant colic
  • Mild cystitis
  • Cradle cap
  • Dandruff
  • Diarrhoea in adults
  • Dry eyes / sore tired eyes
  • Head lice
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Mild acne
  • Mild dry skin/sunburn
  • Sprains
  • Headaches
  • Nappy rash
  • Teething or mild toothache
  • Mild to moderate hay fever
  • Minor burns and scalds
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Oral thrush
  • Prevention of tooth decay
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Travel sickness
  • Warts and verrucas

Dr Hussain added: “Many people understand the pressures the NHS is under and agree that it is not a good use of a doctor’s time or NHS funds to prescribe medicines for conditions which may get better by themselves or be successfully managed by treatments available in pharmacies.”

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