Over the counter medicines: Practice prescribing update

NHS England carried out a public consultation on reducing prescribing of over-the-counter medicines for minor, short-term health concerns from December 2017 to March 2018.

In the year prior to June 2017, the NHS spent approximately £569 million on prescriptions for medicines which can be purchased over-the-counter from a pharmacy and other outlets such as supermarkets.

Following the public consultation and consideration of the responses, NHS England published guidance to Clinical Commissioning Groups on the 29th of March 2018.  The guidance recommends that certain minor health conditions which are either “self-limiting” or suitable for “self-care” should no longer be treated by the issuing of prescriptions. The guidance focuses on stopping prescribing:

  • for the management of a self-limiting condition, which does not require any medical advice or treatment as it will clear up on its own, such as sore throats, coughs and colds;
  • for the management of a condition that is suitable for self-care, which can be treated with items that can easily be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy, such as hay fever, indigestion, mouth ulcers, warts and verrucae etc; and
  • vitamins, minerals and probiotics as they are items of limited clinical effectiveness

Following this guidance, the GPs at this practice have taken the decision to not routinely prescribe

over-the-counter medicines for a range of short-term, minor health concerns, that can be treated over-the-counter from a pharmacy or supermarket in your local community. This includes:

  • Acute sore throat
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Coughs, colds and nasal congestion
  • Cradle cap
  • Dandruff
  • Diarrhoea (adults)
  • Dry eyes / sore tired eyes
  • Earwax
  • Excessive sweating
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Head lice
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Infant colic
  • Infrequent constipation
  • Infrequent cold sores of the lip
  • Infrequent migraine
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Mild acne
  • Minor burns and scalds
  • Mild cystitis
  • Mild dry skin
  • Mild irritant dermatitis
  • Mild to moderate hay fever
  • Minor pain, discomfort and fever (e.g. aches and sprains, headache, period pain, back pain)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Nappy rash
  • Oral thrush
  • Prevention of tooth decay
  • Ringworm / athletes foot
  • Sunburn
  • Sun protection
  • Teething / mild toothache
  • Threadworms
  • Travel sickness
  • Warts and verrucae

In addition and as advised on this guidance,  we will not routinely prescribe:

  • Probiotics
  • Vitamins and minerals

If you would like to review the 2018 NHS England published guidance, please visit:


For more information from the National Health Service on conditions, treatments, local services and healthy living please visit the NHS choices website: www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspx