Survey on prescription costs of medicines

26th August 2016

NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG is urging people to take its survey on plans to stop funding the prescription costs of medicines that are readily available over the counter for minor conditions like coughs, colds and headaches.

Its proposed policy aims to reduce general practice consultations and prescriptions for minor conditions.

The policy would reduce pressure on health services and encourage people to take the best possible care of themselves and be ‘prepared to self-care’ with a well-stocked medicines cabinet, in line with the Caring Together ambition of empowerment.

But the opinions of patients and carers will be taken fully into account before any changes are made.

The draft policy, associated frequently asked questions (FAQs) and an online survey can be found here. Alternatively, readers can type: www.easterncheshireccg.nhs.uk/minorconditions into their search engine.

Printed versions of the survey will soon be available in Eastern Cheshire’s 22 GP practices and other key community venues.

Both online and paper surveys must be returned by 5pm on Wednesday 14 September.

The policy is expected to give every GP in the area around one extra hour a day to see patients with more complex problems. Additionally, it is estimated to save up to £500,000 a year in Eastern Cheshire.

Medicines earmarked for people to buy themselves instead of getting on prescription include:

  • Painkillers for minor conditions
  • Remedies for diarrhoea, constipation and indigestion
  • Cough and cold medication
  • Antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Sun creams plus creams and ointments for minor skin conditions.

The draft prescribing policy has been supported by Cheshire East Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee, which also backed the CCG’s proposal to seek the public’s views.

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Dr Graham Duce, CCG clinical lead for prescribing and GP with Park Green Surgery, Macclesfield, said: “‘A consultation and prescription for a minor condition costs the NHS around £50 but if you buy the medicines yourself you could expect to pay no more than a few pounds, and it could be as little as 20p.

“The CCG is facing significant financial challenges and is working with the public to make best use of the resources available, including asking patients to take as much responsibility as possible for their own health when they can.”

Under the policy, medicines unavailable over-the-counter or which are unsuitable for purchase will continue to be available on prescription.

The draft prescribing policy was developed as part of the CCG’s financial recovery plan to save £9.7m in 2016-17 to achieve an end-of-year deficit of £3.8m agreed with NHS England.

In common with many health service commissioners in England, the CCG has a widening gap between the funding it gets from NHS England and the cost of delivering essential healthcare.

To bridge the gap, it has agreed plans to work more efficiently with service providers, award contracts offering better value, and stop paying for goods or services that it does not have to fund or which offer limited clinical benefit.

Much of the demand for healthcare in Eastern Cheshire arises from the fact that the area has the fastest growing percentage of people aged over 65 in the North West. As a result, the CCG spends well above the national average on specialist procedures like transplants and NHS-funded Continuing Healthcare for people who need long-term support at home after being discharged from hospital.

Many CCGs have already agreed similar policies or are planning to do so. For example, in the North West, NHS Warrington CCG and NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale CCG have both introduced similar policies to the one proposed by Eastern Cheshire.

NHS South Cheshire CCG and NHS Vale Royal CCG are also currently engaging on a similar draft policy.

Read the draft policy and take the survey at www.easterncheshireccg.nhs.uk/minorconditions.

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