Change to prescriptions for minor health conditions

Following an extensive public consultation exercise, NHS England (NHSE)  medicines which are available to buy in a pharmacy or supermarket (over the counter) will no longer be routinely prescribed, even if your qualify for free prescription. This applies to treatments for the following conditions. Follow this link for information on how these conditions are treated.

Why is it changing?

The NHS has been spending around £136 million a year on prescriptions for medicines that can be bought over the counter, such as paracetamol.

By reducing the amount it spends on over the counter (OTC) medicines, the NHS can give priority to treatments for people with more serious conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and mental health problems.

How your local pharmacy team can help you?

Pharmacists can give clinical advice and help you choose the most appropriate treatment. If your symptoms suggest it’s more serious, they’ll ensure you get the care you need.

What if my symptoms don’t improve?

Your local pharmacy team can tell you how long to expect the symptoms of your condition to last. If they haven’t improved after this time or you start to feel a lot worse, you should:

  • Go back to the pharmacy for further advice
  • Call NHS 111
  • Contact your GP

Will there be any exceptions?

In some cases, you can still get prescriptions for medicines used to treat these conditions. You may still be prescribed a medicine for a condition on the list if:

  • you need treatment for a long-term condition, for example regular pain relief for chronic arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease
  • you need treatment for more complex forms of minor illnesses, for example migraines that are very bad and where OTC medicines do not work
  • you need an OTC medicine to treat a side effect of a prescription medicine or symptom of another illness, such as constipation when taking certain painkillers
  • the medicine has a licence that doesn't allow the product to be sold to certain groups of patients. This could include babies, children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • the person prescribing thinks that a patient cannot treat themselves, for example because of mental health problems

Will probiotics, vitamins and minerals be prescribed?

GPs, nurses or pharmacists will also generally no longer prescribe probiotics and some vitamins and minerals. You can get these from eating a healthy, varied and balanced diet, or buy them at your pharmacy or supermarket.

More information is available on the NHS England website


Last updated: 23/07/2019