THE NHS in West Lancashire has announced changes to some items previously available under prescription.
Treatments considered to be of low clinical value and gluten free products are no longer available on prescription in West Lancashire.
NHS West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has approved a recommendation from its medicines optimisation committee and clinical executive committee, at its recent board meeting and supported by their membership of local GP practices, to cease the funding of items to be considered of low clinical value, these include:
- Treatments for minor ailments, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen,
- Treatments where there is little evidence that they have a real clinical benefit, such as cough syrups;
- Products that do not require clinical treatment, such as bath/shower products, and
- Gluten free products, which were previously available on prescription for people diagnosed with coeliac disease.
Last year, the CCG spent £461,000 on low clinical value items and gluten free products, with further expense to NHS England on dispensing fees. Any savings made from these proposed plans, would be reimbursed back into savings within West Lancashire to benefit the community and could, for example, be spent on 4,079 A&E attendances, 4,044 MRI scans, an additional 12,805 GP appointments or 115 stroke treatments.
With regards to gluten free products and the decision to remove these from prescription, historically they were not readily available from supermarkets, so access via prescriptions on the NHS was important. However today products are easily obtained, product ranges have expanded and prices are more competitive.
Nicola Baxter, head of medicines optimisation at NHS West Lancashire CCG, said: “As a CCG, our commissioning decisions and policies are based on five key principles. This means that we will only commission treatments or services which are appropriate, effective, cost-effective, ethical and affordable.
“To meet increasing demands for costs of healthcare we are reviewing what we currently commission in accordance with these principles.”
After receiving the recommendation to cease funding of low clinical value items and gluten free products, CCG chiefs launched an engagement exercise to gather public perceptions. A survey was published and shared with the local population.
Nicola added: “We had a significant response from our survey and held public events, to meet with and get the views of residents about our proposed plans.
“Feedback was largely in support of our plans for low clinical value items. However, although the majority of respondents were also in favour of our plans around gluten free products, two main concerns were raised around people having to buy their own food on low incomes and not all shops stocking gluten free foods or supply issues.
“While we understand this will be an adjustment for those patients who have come to rely on gluten free foods on prescription, shop-bought items are still affordable and there is also of course the option to buy naturally gluten free products such as rice and potatoes.
“The CCG wants to encourage people to “self-care” — which means that they take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing where they can. For instance, pharmacies are a good source of advice and support and can release GP time to treat people with more serious conditions.”
“We will now work closely with patients and support groups to identify what information and support patients need to enable them to identify appropriate dietary advice and sources of appropriate gluten free foods.”
GP practices are now in the process of writing to all patients currently receiving gluten free products on prescription who will be affected by the decision.