Treat yourself, Norfolk and Waveney patients told as £2m is wasted on prescriptions for minor ailments

PUBLISHED: 15:17 08 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:17 08 August 2017

Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire


Patients are being urged to look after themselves when they have minor ailments - because more than £2m is being spent in Norfolk and Waveney on prescriptions that could be bought for less over the counter.

Photo: Julien Behal/PA WirePhoto: Julien Behal/PA Wire

The soaring costs of GPs prescribing for minor illnesses in the area has prompted health chiefs to issue the plea to patients to consider “self care” or to use other services such as pharmacies when they are ill.

The area’s five clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) said GP surgeries spent half a million pounds prescribing for common ailments from March to May this year alone.

And they added self care was usually easier and better for people and helped the health service make better use of resources - sparing time in GP surgeries for more serious conditions.

Dr Linda Hunter, from North Norfolk CCG, added: “At a time when the NHS is facing huge financial pressures, prescribing medications for minor ailments on a short term basis which can be bought by the patient themselves elsewhere is not an effective use of funds and appointments.

“Every time a doctor writes a prescription, the NHS incurs additional charges through dispensing and administrative fees – and if GP time is also included the cost rises even higher.

“Many treatments can be bought from a shop or pharmacy for less than half the price the NHS pays when providing them on prescription. For that reason, we’re asking people to make this choice.”

The region’s health service wants to move towards a situation where patients know how to manage common ailments and their conditions and know what help is available when it is needed, so that expert health staff are able to support those in the greatest need.

And the #Selfcare campaign is aimed at short term ailments which can be readily self-treated.

Françoise Price, deputy director and chief pharmacist Anglia, added: “Using your pharmacist means you can get help and treatment quicker, easier and at a time that suits you. Many of the medicines for short term and relatively minor ailments can be purchased for considerably less in supermarkets and pharmacies than it costs the NHS, meaning it is healthier on the national pocket too.”

Which ailments can be treated with self care?

There are a wide range of ailments which can be treated with self care, including:

• Lower back pain

• Eczema

• Heartburn and indigestion

• Fever in children

• Constipation

• Headache and migraine

• Coughs

• Acne

• Sprains and strains

• Sore throat

• Ear infection

• Common cold

• Sinusitis

• Urine symptoms in men

If symptoms worsened, patients were encouraged to make a GP appointment but in the first instance, these conditions could usually be treated with over-the-counter medicine from a pharmacy. Mr Price added: “Pharmacists have been described as the healthcare professional on the high street and are there to help and support people self care.”

• To find your local pharmacy, visit

Wasted medication also costs millions

The wastage of medication is also an issue the CCGs had looked to tackle, after it was previously revealed around £4.7m was lost every year.

In weight, this amounts to around 176 tonnes - equal to at least 176 elephants.

Of this, £1.69m worth is being returned to pharmacies because it is not needed, £1.41m is kept by people at home and is out of date, and £780,000 is disposed of in care homes.

Audits also show that around half the medication returned to pharmacies has not been opened, which means people are ordering it but not starting to use it.

Despite not being opened, the medicines cannot be re-issued and must be safely disposed of under Department of Health regulations.

The best way to tackle this, is to open the medicine bag at the pharmacy counter and hand anything they no longer need back to the pharmacist.

People should also make sure they only order the medicines they will use.

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