NHS targets suncream prescriptions for cuts
NHS England announced a review after local health bosses identified £400m of spending they believe has little or no clinical value.
It also includes some types of pain relief and travel vaccines. The proposals could see an outright ban or tighter restrictions on some products being prescribed by GPs. An initial list of 10 products has been drawn up by NHS Clinical Commissioners. A number of them are available over-the-counter at a lower price than the cost to the NHS of prescribing them. The products include omega 3 and fish oils, travel vaccines and gluten-free foods as well as a range of pain relief drugs for which there is said to be limited evidence. Documents submitted to NHS England - and seen by the BBC - argue that the prescribing of gluten-free products dates back to the 1960s when there was not the choice there is now in supermarkets and shops. Cutting back on prescriptions for the 10 products could save the NHS £100m a year, the document compiled by NHS Clinical Commissioners says.
'Low value' medicines on the list and their annual cost to the NHS:
£30.93m on Liothyronine to treat underactive thyroid
£21.88m on gluten-free foods
£17.58m on Lidocaine plasters for treating nerve-related pain
£10.51m on Tadalafil, an alternative to Viagra
£10.13m on Fentanyl, a drug to treat pain in terminally ill patients
£8.32m on the painkiller Co-proxamol
£9.47m on travel vaccines
£7.12m on Doxazosin, a drug for high blood pressure
£6.43m on rubs and ointments
£5.65m on omega 3 and fish oils
Source: NHS Clinical Commissioners
NHS Clinical Commissioners - which represents local health managers who are in charge of spending - has also highlighted other products which it also wants reviewed. This includes suncream, cough and cold remedies and indigestion and heartburn medicines, which could bring the saving to £400m a year. NHS Clinical Commissioners chief executive Julie Wood said "difficult choices" had to be made given the unprecedented financial and demand challenges facing the NHS. She said it was important to reduce spending on prescription items that have "little or no clinical value". A spokesman for NHS England said: "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." The news comes ahead of a major announcement by NHS England later this week on the future of the health service.