Brighton doctors will no longer prescribe paracetamol and ibuprofen for short-term minor ailments in a bid to save the local NHS half a million pounds a year.
Brighton and Hove GPs will be the first in Sussex to be told to stop prescribing off the shelf painkillers for conditions such as teething, bruising, period pains and sprains as part of a campaign #HelpMyNHS.
Last year, more than 100,000 such prescriptions were written, despite the fact that a packet of paracetamol costs 19p in Boots and ibuprofen 35p – a quarter of the cost to the NHS of prescribing them.
The total cost to the NHS of the drugs plus the GP consultation is more than £45 – almost 250 times as much as just buying a packet of painkillers.
In a recent Brighton and Hove CCG survey conducted in the run-up to winter, 71 per cent of people were not aware that the medicines cost the NHS four times more than buying them over the counter and 89 per cent of respondents say they already buy their own paracetamol and ibuprofen at the supermarket as part of their household basics.
When it comes to managing their own minor illnesses, 98 per cent said they feel able to do so with the support of a local pharmacist if required.
The CCG estimates that the money saved by not funding paracetamol and ibuprofen prescriptions could provide the NHS in Brighton and Hove with 16 more community nurses, 108 more hip replacements, 26 more drug treatment courses for breast cancer, 400 more drug treatment courses for Alzheimer’s or 416 more cataract operations in a year.
Katy Jackson, chief pharmacist at NHS Brighton and Hove CCG, said: “We are urging patients to help their NHS by buying paracetamol and ibuprofen as part of their basic household grocery shop and using them to self-treat minor illnesses rather than seeking a prescription through a GP appointment.
“It costs the NHS four times as much to prescribe these drugs than it does for a patient to buy them. This is not an efficient use of available resources – the NHS belongs to all of us so please use it responsibly.”
Brighton GP and CCG Chair, Dr David Supple, said: “This initiative is about educating people on how they can treat their own short-term minor illnesses and those of their children, with guidance from a local pharmacist if needed.
“Of course GPs will still be able to prescribe these medicines in exceptional circumstances, such as when patients are experiencing long-term chronic pain or sensitivity, but in the majority of cases a prescription for paracetamol or ibuprofen isn’t necessary.”
Campaign posters and leaflets are on display in GP surgeries and pharmacies across the city and from next week NHS services are using the hashtag #HelpMyNHS on social media to communicate the facts behind this change of prescription protocol to local people.