NHS review could scrap prescriptions for fish oils and gluten-free food

NHS review will look at what GPs can prescribe
NHS review will look at what GPs can prescribe
Emma Sunderland-Hansen, Kiera Baillie, fundraiser Debbie Webb and Rachel Hibbert. Picture: Keith Woodland

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GLUTEN-free food, omega-3 supplements and travel vaccinations may no longer be available on the NHS under major cost-cutting plans.

NHS England will next month launch a consultation as it works to develop new national guidelines to stop GPs prescribing medicines and other items which are available over the counter for a fraction of the cost.

The guidelines for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will initially be developed around a set of 10 medicines deemed ineffective, unnecessary or inappropriate for the NHS.

The list includes omega-3 and fish oils, lidocaine plasters, tadalafil which can help with erectile dysfunction, fentanyl which helps with pain after surgery, gluten-free foods and travel vaccines.

These are thought to cost the service £128m a year, NHS England said.

The review, which will take into account the views of patient groups, clinicians and providers, could extend to over-the-counter medicines which can often be bought at a much lower cost without prescription.

Although not included in the current proposed list, NHS provision of items such as paracetamol, suncream, cough treatments and indigestion tablets could be included in future reviews.

The consultation comes following a request by NHS Clinical Commissioners which identified ‘significant areas’ where savings of up to £400m a year could be made.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told the Daily Mail: ‘Part of what we are trying to do is make sure that we have enough headroom to spend money on the innovative new drugs by not wasting it on these kinds of items.’

A spokeswoman for NHS England added: ‘New guidelines will advise CCGs on the commissioning of medicines generally assessed as low priority and will provide support to clinical commissioning groups, 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.’