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NHS spends £65m a year prescribing everyday items like shampoo

by Ozva Admin
NHS spends £65m a year prescribing everyday items like shampoo

The NHS is spending £65m a year on prescription over-the-counter products like shampoos, paracetamol and toothpaste, an investigation has revealed.

The amount spent on prescriptions for everyday household items has risen by nearly 50 percent since before the pandemic, despite a promise by health chiefs to crack down on wasteful prescriptions.

An analysis of official prescription data by The Telegraph found that GPs are handing out prescriptions for basic items like packets of paracetamol and ibuprofen, which start at just 29p on the high street, as well as household brands like Neutrogena shampoo. , Colgate toothpaste and Warburtons gluten. free bread

In 2018, health chiefs vowed to stop spending taxpayers’ money on such products, with the then NHS chief describing them as a “misuse of scarce funds”.

Since then, NHS spending has skyrocketedwith an additional £3bn a year secured for the next two years, on top of budgets reaching £162bn in 2024/25.

While the total number of such prescriptions has fallen slightly, from 16.4 million to 15.6 million, spending has risen by £21 million, largely driven by an increase in the price the NHS pays for the paracetamol.

‘Slap’ taxpayers

Jim McConalogue, chief executive of think tank Civitas, said: “At a time when families are counting pennies and being told they will have to pay more tax to pay for the NHS, it will feel like a slap in the face to hear bosses The NHS are wasting tens of millions on prescriptions, even on basic toiletries available at the local supermarket.

“If we are really told that the NHS will be protected from cuts to balance the books, then the NHS must have a laser-like focus on wasteful spending. Ministers need to tell NHS bosses that they need to rein in and buckle down like all families in Britain.”

While doctors can use their discretion to prescribe over-the-counter products if they feel it is medically necessary, NHS England guidance published in 2018 warned GPs not to use scarce health service funds to prescribe items such as shampoos for oily hair that are of “low clinical value.” worth”.

However, the Telegraph’s analysis revealed that GPs prescribed £1.85m worth of branded household toiletries in 2021, including spending £501,000 on shampoos.

Nearly two-thirds of this (£1.15 million) was spent on 128,200 prescriptions for Aveeno shampoos, body cleansing oils and body washes, which are promoted in advertisements by Jennifer Aniston, the actress. This equates to around £9 per prescription.

However, Aveeno Calming Shampoo is widely available on the high street and can be bought for around £6.66 at Lloyds Pharmacy. The 300ml Body Cleansing Oil is currently on sale for £4.40 at Waitrose and the 500ml Body Wash is £6.66 at Boots.

The prescription toiletries figures do not include Aveeno’s emollient creams, which doctors may prescribe in some circumstances for conditions such as eczema.

Other over-the-counter toiletries prescribed by GPs included Neutrogena T/Gel shampoos for dry or oily hair.

The NHS spent around £151,500 on 26,700 shampoo prescriptions last year, costing £5 for 125ml from Tesco.

A handful of GPs also prescribed name-brand items like Colgate Total Original toothpaste and Cuticura antibacterial hand gel. Both are available in supermarkets and cost around £3 for 125ml and 300ml respectively.

Despite a 2018 commitment to minimize spend on these items, general toiletries prescriptions are only down 26% from 2019, while spend is down just 24%, against £2.44m.

breads still prescribed

GPs have also continued to prescribe gluten-free bread, even though it is readily available in supermarkets for around £2 a loaf.

Doctors prescribed 37,604 gluten-free breads made by Genius and Warburton’s in 2021, costing the health service around £747,000. A further £4.4m was spent on recipes for specialist gluten-free bread brands.

The number of Genius and Warburtons bread recipes is down just 17% since 2019, while spending is down 15%.

The health service spent £61.4m prescribing standard paracetamol 500mg tablets or capsules for adults in 2021, up from £39.9m in 2019, despite the number of prescriptions for the pain reliever dipped slightly from 15.1 million times last year, compared with 15.8 million in the year before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest figures show that the NHS paid an average of £4.81 per prescription, for an average of 139 tablets.

The equivalent number of tablets would cost £2.52 without a prescription, based on the cheapest supermarket prices at Aldi and Lidl. But patients can only buy a maximum of 32 tablets without a prescription at one time.

The figures only include prescriptions made by GPs and do not include paracetamol which may be given in hospitals or prescribed to patients to be taken home by hospital doctors.

GPs also prescribed packs of 200mg tablets or capsules of the common adult anti-inflammatory painkiller ibuprofen 157,662 times in 2021, spending £753,194 on the drug, despite it also being available in supermarkets for less than 40p.

While ibuprofen prescriptions are down 26% from pre-pandemic levels, spending is up 6% because the NHS is paying more for it.

Patients are entitled to free NHS prescriptions if they are over 60, under 16, or 16-18 and studying full-time.

Vulnerable patients must be cared for

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, President of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs are at the forefront of seeing the impact of rising cost of living on the health of our patients. We recognize that prescription costs are significant to the NHS, and GPs will always encourage patients to buy cheaper generic and over-the-counter items where it is appropriate and safe to do so. But this must be balanced so as not to disadvantage our most vulnerable patients, who are struggling the most with the rising cost of living, by preventing them from accessing the health interventions they need.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS chief medical officer, said: “The NHS has already clamped down on drugs and interventions that are of low value to both patients and taxpayers, such as dietary supplements and herbal remedies. herbs, and the number of these products being prescribed continues to drop.

“We constantly strive to ensure that patients get the best possible treatments for their needs at a price that is fair to taxpayers, and we regularly assess where we can make changes to our services to ensure maximum efficiency.”

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