NHS England has published its final guidance for clinical commissioning groups on the prescribing of OTC medicines following a public consultation. The document received widespread coverage in the national media.

The CCG guidance lists 35 minor health conditions for which it is now recommended that OTC medicines should no longer be routinely prescribed. Vitamins, minerals and probiotics are also included in the restrictions as items of limited clinical effectiveness.

However, the guidance also makes clear that these restrictions do not apply to people with long-term conditions, nor should they be applied to patients who the prescriber considers unable to self-care due to medical, mental health or significant social vulnerability.

The aim of the guidance is to create a consistent, national approach for CCGs to follow when considering restricting the prescribing of OTC medicines, according to the commissioner.

NHS England and NHS Clinical Commissioners worked together to produce the guidance and will be developing a range of resources to support local implementation. However, it will be individual CCG boards who determine the timescale for their local areas.

Commenting on the proposals, PSNC said it was pleased to see significant revisions made as a result of the consultation, including the guidance focusing on prescribing for specific minor illnesses and not to limit the prescribing of medicines for the treatment of long-term conditions.

PSNC director of NHS services, Alastair Buxton, said: “While [the guidance] is likely to lead to a reduction in prescription volume and the de-commissioning of some minor ailments schemes, it could also present an opportunity for community pharmacy to build on its existing role in educating patients to help them to self-care.

“There will still be challenges in implementation. We hope the national resources being produced to support the work required at a local level will help to tackle some of these. We also continue to highlight the fact that any transfer of work from GPs is likely to increase workload for community pharmacy.”

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