Buy your medicines over the counter - it's easier, quicker, cheaper

OTC medicines #HelpMyNHS

With many common ailments, you can care for yourself using medicines bought over the counter at a pharmacy – and you won’t need a prescription. It’s easier, quicker, cheaper.

“We are urging patients to help their NHS by buying some medicines from their local pharmacy or as part of their basic household shop and using them to self-treat minor illnesses rather than seeking a prescription through a GP appointment,” said Dr Martin Writer, Chair at NHS Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) who are responsible for buying and planning health services for the local population. 

“By encouraging more of our patients to self-care by buying over the counter medicines such as paracetamols and antihistamines, we will have more money to spend on nurses, cancer treatments and GP services. It costs the NHS much more 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.” 

It is a good idea to make sure your medicine cabinet is always ready to help you manage common illnesses at home. You can help your NHS by buying your own medicines for:

  • hayfever and other allergies

  • dry skin

  • pain and fever

  • dry or sore eyes

  • indigestion or upset stomach

  • coughs, colds and sore throats

Pharmacists can assess your symptoms, advise you on how to care for yourself and help you buy the medicine you need. You don’t need an appointment and many pharmacies are open late and at weekends.

Every year in the Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG and Hastings and Rother CCG area, we spend more than £12 million prescribing medicines and products that are easily available to buy over the counter. A pack of painkillers costs around 30p from a pharmacy, whereas the cost to the NHS is more than £35 (when all costs are included.)

Every £1million saved on unnecessary prescriptions could instead fund around:

  • 39 community nurses

  • 270 hip replacements

  • 66 treatments for breast cancer 

Dr Tim Caroe, Eastbourne GP and CCG Clinical Lead for Medicines Management at Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG, added: “We want to let people know how they can #HelpMyNHS by treating 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, but in the majority of cases community pharmacists, rather than GPs can provide people with the help that they need.”

People who receive free prescriptions will not automatically be exempt from the guidance.

For patients where the clinician considers that their ability to self-manage is compromised as a consequence of medical, mental health or significant social vulnerability; these patients will continue to receive prescriptions for over the counter items subject to the item being clinically effective.

The NHS belongs to you so please use it responsibly – #HelpMyNHS

For more information on self-care and local NHS services, visit www.sussexhelpmy.nhs.uk.

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