NHS to cut back on prescribing over-the-counter medicines

NHS to cut back on prescribing over-the-counter medicines

Published: 10th April, 2018 in: News

In news presented on the 29th of March 2018, it has been announced that NHS England are going to crack down on the routine prescribing of over-the-counter medicines for 35 self-limiting or short-term medical conditions, saving the NHS £100 million a year to be reinvested in frontline services.

The NHS England Board has approved guidance that will restrict routine providing medication which is available to purchase in most pharmacies for conditions which are easily treatable. The result of this is that 35 minor medical conditions will now require heading to a pharmacy to pick up the designated medication, purchasing what you need over the counter rather than receiving them free of charge from your GP.

See below a full list of the 35 areas that will now be limited for prescriptions: 

Type Annual NHS Spend
Vitamins and minerals £48,100,000
Minor conditions associated with pain, discomfort or fever £38,200,000
Infrequent Constipation £22,800,000
Dry Eyes/ Sore tired Eyes £14,800,000
Mild Irritant Dermatitis £14,500,000
Indigestion and Heartburn £7,500,000
Mouth ulcers £5,500,000
Teething/Mild toothache £5,500,000
Insect bites and stings £5,300,000
Cradle Cap (Seborrhoeic dermatitis) £4,500,000
Dandruff £4,500,000
Oral Thrush £4,500,000
Travel Sickness £4,500,000
Ringworm/Athletes foot £3,000,000
Diarrhoea (Adults) £2,800,000
Coughs and colds and nasal congestion £1,300,000
Probiotics £1,100,000
Mild to Moderate Hay fever/Seasonal Rhinitis £1,100,000
Warts and Verrucae £900,000
Mild Acne £800,000
Infrequent Migraine £700,000
Head Lice £600,000
Conjunctivitis £500,000
Haemorrhoids £500,000
Nappy Rash £500,000
Mild Cystitis £300,000
Earwax £300,000
Excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis) £200,000
Minor burns and scalds £200,000
Threadworms £200,000
Acute Sore Throat <£100,000
Infrequent cold sores of the lip <£100,000
Infant Colic <£100,000
Prevention of dental caries <£100,000
Mild Dry Skin £33,000
Sunburn due to excessive sun exposure £33,000
Sun Protection £33,000

However, those who regularly rely on the NHS for prescriptions for minor ailments from the aforementioned list need not worry, for restriction will only apply when the ailment is judged to be a minor and short-term problem. Similarly, the final guidance also includes a number of exemptions for patients who have a compromised ability to manage self care because of “medical, mental health or significant social vulnerability”. This includes patients with financial difficulties - though those who are exempt from paying prescription charges will not automatically be exempt from restrictions introduced by the new guidance.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these illnesses which are now limited on the NHS, and how Weldricks Pharmacy can help get you back to fighting fitness in no time with our huge range of products. 


Infrequent Constipation is constipation which has primarily been induced by changes in diet or lifestyle - such as lack of water, lack of movement or a change in diet. This condition costs the NHS around £22,800,000 per year. This condition can affect those of all ages, but is usually most effectively treated by a change in diet or lifestyle. If diet and lifestyle changes don’t have a significant impact, pharmacists can prescribe over-the-counter laxatives, which should work in 3 days. Browse the range of Weldricks constipation remedies here. They should only be used for a short time, and it’s not recommended that children use laxatives unless they are directly prescribed by a GP.

Athlete's Foot

Athlete’s foot is a rash which commonly appears between the toes and is caused by a fungus. Known medically as ‘tinea’, it isn’t a serious condition, and can be treated easily by over-the-counter medications. It costs the NHS around £3,000,000 a year, but will be treated with ease by purchasing any of these athlete's foot treatments, all available online at Weldricks. It is important to note that whilst athlete’s foot it simple to cure, it is contagious and incredibly easy to spread, which means it’s important to practice good foot hygiene. If you have any questions about how to maintain good foot hygiene, please feel free to pop into your nearest Weldricks for advice.


Mild acne is a condition which is currently costing the NHS an annual sum of around £800,000. It is an extremely common skin condition which affects almost everyone at some point. There is no specific cure for acne, but it can certainly be controlled with a host of acne treatments. Treatments can take up to 3 months to work, but acne should be visibly reduced after long-term use of your chosen acne treatment.


At an annual cost of around £4,500,000, dandruff is an incredibly costly condition for the NHS. However, actually treating dandruff can simply be done with a host of antifungal shampoos which are available from Weldricks. Dandruff is a skin condition which can be described as a flaking of the scalp without itching. It isn’t contagious and is easily manageable. Browse our range of dandruff treatments.


Diarrhoea is a condition which will affect everyone from time to time, and despite being absolutely nothing to worry about, it can ordinarily take anywhere from a few days up to a week to clear. Acute diarrhoea is ordinarily caused by a bacterial or viral infection, but can also be caused by alternative factors such as stress or drugs. Despite currently costing the NHS around £2,800,000 per year, there are a range of over-the-counter diarrhoea treatments which will do just the trick; replacing any lost fluids and reducing bowel movements.

Head Lice

Head lice is an incredibly common problem which is particularly rife in school children and it costs around £600,000 per year for the NHS. Though head lice are largely harmless, they can live in the hair for a long time if not treated quickly, and can become incredibly irritating. Not only that, but they’re contagious too. They can usually be treated by wet combing, but should they be persistent, you can pick up chemical head lice treatments from Weldricks Pharmacy quickly and get your child treated as soon as possible. If appropriate, everyone in the household should be treated - even if they’re not showing symptoms.

Cold Sores

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, and despite normally clearing up without treatment in 7 - 10 days, costs the NHS almost £100,000 a year. Antiviral creams are available to purchase with ease from your local pharmacy without a prescription, and when correctly used can help to alleviate symptoms quickly and speed up your healing. Apply your cold sore remedies as soon as you spot the first signs for the quickest and most effective healing.

Ear Care

Ear care is an essential part of health maintenance and is something that you can keep on top of relatively easily from the comfort of your own home with the right products. Having said that, there are a few common ear issues which actually cost the NHS a significant amount per year. Earwax for example, has an annual cost of around £300,000 - despite being easy to treat with ear drops and sprays which are available from Weldricks Pharmacy.


The move to restrict prescriptions for some of the aforementioned minor ailments follows a similar measure last year, which saw the NHS stop paying for things such as gluten-free food and sun cream - items which are available to purchase in most supermarkets.

If you find yourself suffering from any of the conditions mentioned in this post, please pop along to your local Weldricks Pharmacy to see how we can help you get back to your best in no time. Our online contact form will enable you get in touch with any questions or queries you might have, or you could just give us a call on 0808 164 3211 for advice over the phone.

Alternatively, you can shop our extensive range of products online and get them delivered straight to your door, or utilise our handy ‘Click and Collect’ service to pick them up locally at a time which is convenient for you.

Source: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2018/03/nhs-england-frees-up-millions-of-pounds-which-could-be-used-for-frontline-services/