Over 800 people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have had their say on the availability of paracetamol and gluten-free foods on prescription in a survey undertaken by the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the area, in conjunction with Healthwatch Leicestershire.
As part of their ongoing efficiency drive to ensure that NHS resources are used fairly across the entire population, CCGs have been looking at the way which they prescribe products which are also available to buy cheaply in pharmacies and supermarkets.
Paracetamol is available to buy cheaply and easily over the counter at supermarkets, pharmacies and many other retailers. In 2015/16 the NHS spent £1.5 million on prescribing paracetamol for patients in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. This was to support patients with a wide range of illnesses, from what are known as self-limiting illnesses such as sore throats and teething pain in babies, to chronic pain management. A further £700,000 was spent on prescribing gluten-free foods for people with Coeliac disease or Dermatitis Herpetiformis.
Following careful consideration of the survey responses, it has been decided that patients in Leicestershire and Rutland who use large quantities of paracetamol (for example for management of chronic pain conditions), will continue to receive paracetamol on prescription. However, patients should purchase paracetamol for use in the short term for self-limiting illnesses.
The majority of people said in the survey that they would be affected either ‘not at all’ or ‘only a little’ by the proposed change to paracetamol prescribing.
In East Leicestershire and Rutland these changes came into effect on 31 October 2016. In West Leicestershire, they will commence from 1 December 2016.
Dr. Chris Trzcinski, a local GP in West Leicestershire and clinical lead at West Leicestershire CCG, speaking on behalf of East Leicestershire and Rutland and West Leicestershire CCGs, said:
“We’re extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to share what matters most to them regarding the prescription of both paracetamol and gluten free products. This has enabled us to really understand any impact on people that making changes to prescribing these items would have, and how we can continue to support people while ensuring the fairest use of our resources.
“To help us with this, we are asking patients not to request paracetamol on prescription from their GP unless required for chronic pain management and to purchase it instead.”
The CCGs also sought to understand the nature of any impact on people, if changes were introduced to gluten-free prescriptions. Of the people who are currently in receipt of gluten-free foods on prescription, 60% said that they would be affected a lot if gluten-free foods were no longer made available to them on prescription, 15% would be affected a little and 25% did say they wouldn’t be affected.
As a result of the survey, from 1 December, the CCGs will be making the following changes to the prescribing of gluten free products across Leicestershire and Rutland:
• Patients who have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and/or Dermatitis Herpetiformis will receive up to 8 units per month of gluten free bread and flour.
• Prescribing of pasta, pizza bases, cereals and crisp breads is no longer recommended as these foods are available from supermarkets at a similar cost to their gluten containing equivalents and therefore the patient is not
unfairly disadvantaged by having to purchase these goods
The NHS has been prescribing gluten-free food for over 30 years, but back then gluten-free foods were not easily available to buy in shops. In recent years this has changed and there is now a wide range of different products available in supermarkets. Gluten-free products can also be very expensive when obtained via an NHS prescription and the products are often considerably more costly than the price of a similar gluten-free product purchased in the supermarket.
Dr Trzcinski continued:
“We had a great response from people across Leicestershire and Rutland, telling us how they may be affected by changes to gluten free prescribing.
"It is much easier nowadays to buy gluten free products now in the shops, and they don’t cost much more than they do on prescription. However some people were concerned about the effect that stopping prescription of gluten free products completely would have on them, so patients with illnesses which require them to eat a gluten free diet will still be able to get up to eight units per month of gluten free bread and flour.
"We think these changes to prescribing offer a fair way of utilising NHS resources wisely and results from our public survey show that the majority of people agree with us.”