Prescriptions for over the counter medicines ‘cost NHS Hertfordshire £9million’

PUBLISHED: 06:32 20 October 2011 | UPDATED: 10:37 20 October 2011



Casey Gutteridge

HERTFORDSHIRE patients with relatively minor health complaints are costing the NHS £9m a year in prescriptions that could just as easily be bought over the counter, it has been revealed.

NHS Hertfordshire is asking residents to think twice before heading to their GP surgery or nearest A&E when suffering from ailments such as headaches, colds, flu, indigestion, diarrhoea and constipation.

This week, the county’s Primary Care Trust (PCT) launched a self-care campaign to encourage people to stock up on non-prescription remedies such as painkillers, moisturisers, hay fever tablets and powders and lotions for conditions like athlete’s foot and head lice.

The campaign will use leaflets and posters encouraging people to consult a pharmacist, instead of their doctor, on a wide range of common ailments in a bid to save cash.

The PCT spends an estimated £9m a year on medicines that can be bought without prescription from chemists, supermarkets and drug stores – a figure roughly equivalent to the cost of employing an additional 200 special nurses, or performing 2,000 cataract operations.

Juliet Rodgers, assistant director of communications at NHS Hertfordshire, said: “It was becoming clear many people don’t know when to go to A&E or use their GP, or how much help they can get from their pharmacist.

“This isn’t about turning people away. We’re just trying to get people to think differently.”

Dr Fiona Sinclair, a GP from Hitchin, added: “The main message is to take ownership of the less serious conditions and ask people to think about whether they need to go to their GP when there’s plenty of products available through community pharmacists.”

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