Cambridgeshire health chiefs reveal cost to NHS of over-the-counter medicines that patients could buy

NHS England

NHS England - Credit: Archant

Health chiefs in Cambridgeshire have revealed they spend £1.5million on prescribing pain relief medication for patients, who could have bought painkillers from pharmacies or supermarkets.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have also revealed they spend £1.2million to treat upset stomachs, £550,000 on antihistamines for hayfever and £320,000 to treat heartburn and indigestion.

According to the CCG, all of these medicines can be bought at local pharmacies or supermarkets for less than it costs the NHS to prescribe.

Sati Ubhi, chief pharmacist at the CCG, said: “We want the public to really think before they visit the GP, is this something that I can treat myself? Is there a medication I can buy for this over the counter?

“A packet of paracetamol can cost as little as 25p for 16 tablets at a pharmacy. But if you go to your GP with your ache or pain and get a prescription, the total cost to your NHS is approximately £55.

“We all have a responsibility to look after our own health and look after our NHS.”

The CCG estimates the cost of time and money spent on GP appointments for patients who could have self-cared at £17.6million.

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This means that patients could have looked after themselves, by visiting a pharmacy or supermarket and buying the appropriate medication, or resting at home and using medications they already have from a medicine cupboard.

Sati added: “We fully understand that for some people getting a prescription for free is the only way to access medications. And in other cases people need daily pain killers for example, which makes it unaffordable in the long-term.

“But for lots of other people needing a short dose of treatment, 25p for paracetamol or £1 for tablets for an upset stomach is affordable.

“Self-care week aims to highlight the different ways we can look after ourselves. This can involve just small changes such as knowing how to keep fit and healthy, how to deal with medicines appropriately, managing self-treatable conditions and knowing when to seek appropriate medical help.”

How much the NHS in Cambridgeshire spend on medicines and how much they cost patients to buy:

Pain relief (paracetamol) – cost to NHS £1.5 million, cost for patient to buy 25p (16 tablets)

Upset stomach treatment – cost to NHS £1.2million, cost for patient to buy £1 (six capsules)

Antihistamines (hayfever) – cost to NHS £550,000, cost for patient to buy £2.75 (30 tablets)

Heartburn and indigestion treatment – cost to NHS £320,000, cost for patient to buy £2 (200ml)

Travel sickness treatment – cost to NHS £93,000, cost for patient to buy £2.30 (10 tablets).