Prescription changes will affect low income families say Portsmouth group

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

Tuesday, 28th March 2017, 3:58 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:25 pm
The number of treatments available on prescriptions may be reduced as the NHS looks to save money

NHS England will next month launch a consultation as it works to develop new guidelines to stop GPs prescribing items that are available over the counter for a lower cost.

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

Groups supporting people with these prescriptions said it will have an impact on those with low income.

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Kate Dowell is the organiser for the south-east Hampshire coeliac group, based in Portsmouth, and is a coeliac.

The Gosport teacher said: ‘I am not entirely surprised by these proposals because GPs are already limiting what gluten-free products they will prescribe.

‘Unfortunately the people who will be most affected are those who cannot afford the basic staples like bread, flour and pasta.’

Ms Dowell said when she was first diagnosed, her GP would give her prescriptions for bread, flour, pizza bases, pasta and biscuits. But now, it is mainly bread and flour.

She added: ‘The impact on low-income families will outweigh the financial benefits for the NHS’.

As well as gluten-free food, the list also includes omega-3 and fish oils, lidocaine plasters, tadalafil for erectile dysfunction, fentanyl, which helps with pain, and travel vaccines.

In total these are thought to cost £128m a year, NHS England said.

The NHS in Hampshire is trying to save £58m in prescribing costs.

The review, which will take into account the views of patient groups, clinicians and providers, could extend to over-the-counter medicines which can 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 and cough treatments 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.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: ‘New guidelines will advise CCGs on the commissioning of medicines assessed as low priority and will provide support to CCGs, prescribers and dispensers.

‘The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at a relatively low cost underlines the need for healthcare professionals to work closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources.’

A SENIOR cancer charity official has criticised government plans to scrap funding for some prescriptions on the NHS.

Melanoma patients and patients with other skin conditions have expressed their disappointment at the prescription changes proposed by NHS England.

Initially, 10 medicines and other items could be scrapped including gluten-free products and travel vaccinations.

But the list could be extended to include some cough medicines and sunscreen.

Gill Nuttall, chief executive of skin cancer charity Melanoma UK said: ‘I would very much like to speak with whoever made the decision that sun screen has ‘little or no clinical value’.

‘I speak to melanoma patients every day who are receiving life-prolonging treatments in melanoma, some of whom suffer some terrible side effects, including extreme reactions to the sun. Sun screen has a very high clinical value to those patients.

‘We fully appreciate that the NHS should not be abused in any way at all, and we know there are issues across the whole of the NHS, not just in prescription medicines, but we would urge NHS England to think very carefully before placing sun creams in their list.’

Figures show the number of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, is five times higher than it was 40 years ago.

More than 13,000 people are diagnosed every year. Cancer charity disappointed with NHS treatment plans