Steve Brine

Pharmacy minister Steve Brine recently defended NHS England’s decision to reduce OTC prescriptions and said he did not believe this would lead to an epidemic of head lice as a hygiene charity has warned.

In a Commons Q&A session on Tuesday November 27, Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull West and Hessle Emma Hardy said she had met with the charity Community Hygiene Concern who told her that NHS England’s decision to axe prescriptions for “cheap, re-usable and effective” head lice kits “threatens an epidemic of head lice in our schools”.

Arguing that “surely head lice should not be considered a minor ailment,” Ms Hardy asked whether Mr Brine would request that NHS England chief Simons Stevens meet with her and the charity to review this issue.

Mr Brine said that “in the year to June 2017, the NHS spent approximately £569m on prescriptions for medicines that could be bought over the counter from a pharmacy or supermarket” and that this state of affairs had led to the consultation on reducing routine prescriptions for certain items and the subsequent NHS England guidance.

Mr Brine said that he did not believe NHS England’s decision would be responsible for an epidemic of head lice. Wet combing is a safe, effective way of treating lice that is recommended by “clinical experts in the NHS,” he said, adding that chemical treatments are advised “only in exceptional circumstances”.

However, he said he would be happy to “facilitate that interaction” requested by Ms Hardy.

PM has asked Community Hygiene Concern whether it has seen an increase in head lice cases since OTC prescriptions were reduced.

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