NHS England has published Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View – its delivery plan for the next two years.
As part of the plan, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced a review of low value prescription items which the NHS may stop prescribing in an effort to make potential savings of up to £400 million per year. NHS England will work with clinicians to set out a national approach for CCGs across the country to follow.
NHS England plans to first develop guidelines around a set of 10 medicinal products deemed ineffective, unnecessary or inappropriate to be prescribed on the NHS, including gluten-free foods, omega-3 vitamin supplements and travel vaccinations.
The second stage will see NHS England preparing additional guidance to support CCGs in making decisions about what is prescribed on the NHS at a local level. This will involve assessing other medicines which have relatively low clinical value or are readily available as over-the-counter products, such as treatments for coughs and colds, antihistamines, indigestion and heartburn medication and suncream.
Commenting on the Next Steps plan, Sue Sharpe, PSNC chief executive, said: “It is not surprising that the NHS is examining opportunities to trim expenditure on items that may not be necessary, or on those that are extremely low cost to purchase. This could help reduce some of the workload of GPs if the NHS ensures that people know that their local pharmacy can help them manage their conditions, and properly recognises the services pharmacies provide now and could extend in future. We will be examining the proposals and offering views to NHS England as it develops its work.”
Warwick Smith, director general of the British Generic Manufacturers Association, said: “The use of more cost effective generic medicines following the expiry of the patent protection on the original branded product reduces the NHS Drug Bill by approximately £13 billion thereby increasing access to innovative and gold standard older products for patients. The UK has amongst the highest use of generic medicines in the EU and the lowest prices. We will continue to work with NHS England, the Department of Health and other agencies to increase the efficiency of this market yet further, to ensure that patients in the UK benefit to the greatest extent possible in terms of access to medicines and clinical outcomes.”
In addition, NHS England aims to increase usage of the summary care record, give patients the option of evening and weekend GP appointments and use the electronic prescription service (EPS) to send urgent prescriptions from NHS 111 and GP out of hours services. Plans to recruit more than 1,300 pharmacists to work in GP practices and encourage GP practices to work together in 'hubs' to share resources, including working more closely with community pharmacists, are also in the pipeline.
Sandra Gidley, RPS England Board chair, commented: “There is no doubt the current workforce crisis in primary care and emergency care will be partially addressed if the NHS makes use of the skills of pharmacists already in practice and the large number of undergraduates we have coming out of pharmacy schools. Pharmacists are the third largest health profession and can make a huge difference to patient care if better utilised and integrated in the healthcare system.”