The three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR), who plan and pay for local healthcare services in the area, are investigating ways they can reduce the amount they spend on prescribing items which are also freely available to buy in supermarkets and community pharmacies.
These include paracetamol, which is available cheaply in supermarkets, and other over the counter medicines such as anti-histamines, thread worm, verruca treatments, dandruff, and other pain killers such co-codamol and ibuprofen. It also includes gluten free food staples, such as bread, crackers & crispbreads, flour mixes, pasta and pizza bases.
To understand the effect that any changes to the prescribing of these items might have, the CCGs have teamed up with Healthwatch Leicestershire to gather the views of people who currently receive these items on prescription or have friends, family members or people they care for that do.
Dr Dick Hurwood, GP Clinical Lead at East Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Group, speaking on behalf of the three CCGs said “It is important for us to look at the ways in which we can make the best use of our budgets so that they bring the greatest health benefits to our local population. Sometimes this means that we will need to make difficult decisions about what we provide to support people. Before we make any decisions or changes though, it is vital for us to hear and understand the views of the people the potential changes may affect. If changes to the prescription of paracetamol or gluten free food products would affect you or your loved ones then we urge you to fill in our questionnaire and let us know what impact this might have on your life.”
Paracetamol is approximately four times more expensive when prescribed on the NHS compared to when it is purchased in pharmacies or supermarkets, and in 2015/16 the NHS spent approximately £1.5 million pounds on prescribing paracetamol for patients in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Some of this was to treat people with conditions which could have got better on their own, such as sore throats for adults or teething pains for babies.
The NHS also spent £700,000 prescribing gluten-free foods to support patients with Coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis, conditions which are triggered by eating foods with gluten in them. Gluten- free foods were originally prescribed to help people who needed them to eat a balanced diet, but are now easily found in supermarkets and the cost to the NHS is far greater than the cost of buying it in the shops. It is also possible to eat a diet based around staples which do not include gluten, such as meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, rice, and potatoes.
Anyone who might be affected by changes in how these medicines are prescribed is urged to fill in a questionnaire to make sure their voice is heard.
The questionnaire can be found here www.healthwatchleicestershire.co.uk and the closing date is 13 July 2016.