The GHA, as part of the Reset, Restart, Recover strategy for post-pandemic recovery, will make changes to its prescription policy. This means that as from 30th April some medicines and products for minor health conditions – such as minor pain, mild dry skin or coughs and colds – that patients have previously accessed via prescription will only be available for over-the-counter purchase.
In the last year, about £300k was spent on prescriptions for medicines that are easily and widely available for purchase without a prescription at pharmacies and shops. This means that the GHA is spending large amounts of money on medicines that have little clinical value or are available commercially. Examples include:
- Nappy/barrier creams
- Treatment of mouth ulcers
- Mild cystitis
- Coughs, colds and nasal congestion
- Mild dry skin
- Cradle cap
- Mild irritant dermatitis
- Mild to moderate hay fever
There is also an on-going review of all medicines prescribed both at the Primary Care Centre and for use within St Bernard’s Hospital. The GHA currently issues around 1 million prescriptions in primary care a year at a cost of around £13.5 million to the taxpayer. It spends a further £12m on medicines for cancer, surgery and for other acute conditions in the hospital. Those identified as being of limited clinical value will be removed from the prescribing lists in order to invest resources elsewhere in the delivery of care.
The GHA estimates that by moving towards a model of self-care for minor conditions that usually get better on their own, around £300k per year can be redirected towards other, more critical areas. It is estimated that a further £4 million can be saved by reducing wastage and removing medicines of limited clinical value from the prescribing lists, and by replacing expensive branded medicines with their equivalent generic forms where possible.
Patients can be reassured that those who need treatment or medication that is not available over-the-counter will continue to receive it on prescription. This will include patients who require treatment for a long-term health condition and for more complex forms of minor illnesses.
The Director General, Patrick Geoghegan, said: ‘This change represents a redirection of resources in line with international good practice, using an evidence-based approach to medicine. It means that the GHA can stop spending huge amounts of money on prescriptions for medicines that are available to the public commercially and put it to better use in other areas, for example in cancer care and the treatment of children with rare conditions.’
Minister for Health, the Hon Albert Isola, said: ‘This change in policy is part of the much wider strategy for post-pandemic recovery. Now is a critical time for the GHA, as it is for health services worldwide, and resources need to be allocated in the best interests of patients and of the taxpayer. This will not stop patients from receiving the treatment or medicines that they need. It will, however, stop people from being able to access commercially-available products on prescription at the expense of the GHA. This change to prescription policy represents responsible use of resources as the GHA Resets, Restarts and Recovers.’