Home Science Heartburn and indigestion drugs banned on prescription as NHS tightens its belt 

Heartburn and indigestion drugs banned on prescription as NHS tightens its belt 

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Heartburn and indigestion drugs banned on prescription as NHS tightens its belt 

The NHS is to stop paying for heartburn and indigestion drugs as part of a widespread review of prescriptions. 

Under the new rules, which will be released for consultation on Friday, doctors will be banned from routinely prescribing items that are cheaply available in high street chemists.

Over-the-counter items such as heartburn and indigestion drugs, paracetamol, hayfever tablets, sun cream, medicine for coughs and colds, and travel vaccinations will no longer be available through the NHS.

Patients with Coeliac disease will also be forced to buy their own gluten-free food.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “New guidelines will advise clinical commissioning groups (CCG) on the commissioning of medicines generally assessed as low priority and will provide support to CCGs, prescribers and dispensers.

"The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, often for self-limiting or minor conditions, underlines the need for all healthcare professionals to work even closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources, while eliminating wastage and improving patient outcomes."

Heartburn and indigestion drugs banned on prescription as NHS tightens its belt 

The cuts are part of new measures to reduce £1 billion of costs in the health service, which is struggling to cope with a surge in demand caused by a rising population.

The chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, is also pledging to crack down on the expense of treating patients from the European Union by recuperating the cost from visitors’ home countries, as well as cutting the cost of employing expensive locum doctors.

NHS England said the prescription changes could save the health service up to £128 million per year.

The new guidelines will apply to 10 medicine groups which are deemed "ineffective, unnecessary, inappropriate or unsafe".

However, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) warned that the move could leave poorer patients unable to access vital medication. 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chairwoman of the RCGP, said: "Prescribing is a core skill in general practice and family doctors will always prescribe in the best interests of the patient in front of us, taking into account the combination of physical, psychological and social factors affecting their health.

"Imposing blanket policies on GPs that don’t take into account demographic differences across the country, or allowing flexibility for a patient’s individual circumstances, risks alienating the most vulnerable in society – and we will be seeking assurances from NHS England that this won’t be the case.

“Likewise, the college would reiterate our concerns about charging overseas visitors for access to general practice. 

"We do not oppose the UK claiming back money that it is owed from other countries, where this is appropriate – and we have accepted the sensible measure negotiated by the British Medical Association for new patients to self-declare their eligibility status upon registration at a GP practice."

Heartburn and indigestion drugs banned on prescription as NHS tightens its belt 

NHS England said it would be seeking the views of  patient groups, clinicians, commissioners and providers across the the health service in the coming months before final guidance is issued later this year.

Outlining the plans, Mr Stevens called on families to take some of the strain off the health service by taking better care of elderly relations and more closely controlling children’s diets.

The strategy involves new targets to move more elderly people who are not in need of critical care out of hospital to free up beds, as well as a further crackdown on hiring expensive locum doctors.

Last week, the Department of Health pledged to free up hospital beds by allowing more people to be treated in their homes. At the moment, about five per cent of the 137,000 NHS beds are taken up by so-called bed-blockers, who are not able to leave hospital due to a lack of social care.

Mr Stevens said that, while the NHS is efficient, there is still some waste that should be stopped.

Sandra Gidley, chairwoman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: "The NHS has traditionally provided treatment free at the point of use for both short-term and life-long conditions. Today’s announcement could be interpreted as an attack on this important principle.

"Balanced against this is the need for the NHS to be as cost-effective as possible in a term of constrained resources. We understand the need for prioritisation.

"We are in agreement with NHS England that products with low or no clinical evidence of effectiveness should be reviewed with urgency. We are surprised that homeopathy, which has no scientific evidence of effectiveness, is not on the list for review.

"We are concerned of how a blanket ban of products to treat life-long conditions such as coeliac disease and chronic pain could have unintended consequences on those who rely on these treatments to both improve the quality of life.

"In the case of coeliac disease, untreated and undertreated cases can lead to illness and have been associated with the development of other serious conditions. For those on low incomes, ability to pay for products and medicines can be a significant barrier to accessing treatment."


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