Changes to prescribing to free up NHS funds

Patients in Leeds will be encouraged to buy medicines over-the-counter rather than being issued with a prescription for them by their GP in an effort to free up NHS funds as part of an initiative formally launched today by NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Last year over £3.2 million was spent by the NHS in Leeds on prescribing medicines which could otherwise have been bought over the counter. Nationally, this figures stands at £569 million according to data from NHS England.

As a result of this guidance was issued in March 2018 by NHS England, the organisation responsible for the day to day running of the health service, to encourage people to buy medicines that can be bought over-the counter at pharmacies or supermarkets. This is for conditions that people can self-manage  or those that will settle in a short period of time without the need to see a doctor.

In future, patients may be asked to buy their own medicines for a range of ailments such as a cold, sore throat or hay fever.

In an effort to get patients to think about how they can protect NHS resources, NHS Leeds CCG is also reminding patients that they should consider visiting their pharmacy first for common health conditions. This means that GP time can be freed up for other patients with more complex conditions that require a GP to be involved in their care. in greater need of support.

Dr Gaye Sheerman-Chase, a local GP and Principle Medical Adviser at NHS Leeds CCG, said: “Doctors in Leeds might now ask you to buy your own medicines for common health conditions such as dry skin, dandruff or hay fever. By doing this you will be helping your local NHS. While we are implementing this national guidance in Leeds, we are leaving the final decision with your GP as there may be a sound reason to prescribe over-the-counter medicines for you.

“Our campaign also reminds people to take greater responsibility when using NHS services. Research, from a range of sources, shows that around four in ten appointments with a GP could be avoided if people chose other healthcare options such as a visit to their local pharmacy.”

Patients who find that their condition doesn’t improve after taking an appropriate over-the-counter medicines are advised to contact NHS 111, speak to their local pharmacist or arrange an appointment with their GP for advice.

To find out more about the Leeds campaign, visit

Notes to editors

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Exceptions to the new prescription rules

You may still be prescribed a medicine for a condition on the list if:

  • You need treatment for a long-term condition, e.g. regular pain relief for chronic arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • You need treatment for more complex forms of minor illnesses, e.g. migraines that are very bad and where over-the-counter medicines do not work.
  • You need an over-the-counter medicine to treat a side effect of a prescription medicine or symptom of another illness, e.g. constipation when taking certain painkillers.
  • The medicine has a licence which doesn’t allow the product to be sold over-the-counter to certain groups of patients. This could include babies, children or women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • The person prescribing thinks that a patient cannot treat themselves, for example because of mental health problems or severe social vulnerability.

National guidance is available from

How can you help your local NHS?

Keeping a few useful medicines at home means you can treat common conditions immediately without needing to see a healthcare professional.

These could include:

  • Painkillers to help with pain or discomfort
  • Indigestion medicines, oral rehydration salts and treatments for constipation and diarrhoea
  • Treatments for seasonal conditions like hay fever
  • Sunblock and after sun
  • Basic first aid items (for example plasters or antiseptic cream)

If you have children, make sure you also have products suitable for them. Speak to your local pharmacy team about what medicines to keep at home, where to store them safely and how to use them.

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Issued by the communications team at NHS Leeds CCG. You can contact the team on 0113 84 35528 or 0113 84 35470. Alternatively please email us: [email protected]