HelpMyNHS campaign launches across the city
NHS Brighton and Hove CCG is today launching a new public awareness campaign called ‘HelpMyNHS’. Designed to explain the costs associated with GP prescriptions for medicines that are also available to buy over the counter without a prescription at pharmacies, the campaign is asking local people to help their NHS use available funding more efficiently.
From January, the CCG aims to save the local NHS half a million pounds by ceasing to fund the prescribing of paracetamol and ibuprofen for short-term minor ailments.
HelpMyNHS posters and leaflets are on display in GP surgeries and pharmacies across the city and NHS services are using the hashtag #HelpMyNHS on social media to communicate the facts behind this change of prescription protocol to local people.
Over 100,000 prescriptions for paracetamol and ibuprofen were written last year in Brighton and Hove according to the CCG, despite both medications being freely and cheaply available in pharmacies and supermarkets. Historically, local patients have been prescribed paracetamol and ibuprofen for a wide range of conditions, including headaches, teething, sore throats and sprains.
HelpMyNHS sees Brighton and Hove leading the charge in a national trend that will see more NHS commissioners across England roll out similar changes to prescription funding this year – changes designed to ensure the most efficient use of local NHS funding, encourage public behaviour change around the treatment of minor ailments and help ease demand on GP appointments.
Medicines 4 times more expensive when prescribed
Paracetamol and ibuprofen are approximately four times more expensive when prescribed on the NHS compared to when they are purchased in pharmacies or supermarkets*. Patients are now being asked by GPs to buy their own and self-manage minor ailments in order to help their local NHS. A prescription for paracetamol or ibuprofen through a GP consultation costs the NHS over £45 compared to approximately 20p or 35p* in pharmacies and supermarkets.
A recent Brighton and Hove CCG survey** conducted in the run-up to winter revealed that 71% of people were not aware that the medicines cost the NHS four times more than buying them over the counter and 89% of respondents say they already buy their own paracetamol and ibuprofen at the supermarket as part of their household basics. When it comes to managing their own minor illnesses, a whopping 98% said they feel able to do so with the support of a local pharmacist if required.
The CCG estimates that the money saved by not funding paracetamol and ibuprofen prescriptions could provide the NHS in Brighton and Hove with either: 16 more community nurses; 108 more hip replacements; 26 more drug treatment courses for breast cancer; 400 more drug treatment courses for Alzheimer’s; or 416 more cataract operations in a year. The CCG's Position Statement on prescribing ibuprofen and paracentaol is available here.
Katy Jackson, Chief Pharmacist at NHS Brighton and Hove CCG, said: “We are urging patients to help their NHS by buying paracetamol and ibuprofen as part of their basic household grocery shop and using them to self-treat minor illnesses rather than seeking a prescription through a GP appointment. It costs the NHS four times as much to prescribe these drugs than it does for a patient to buy them. This is not an efficient use of available resources – the NHS belongs to all of us so please use it responsibly.”
Brighton GP and CCG Chair, Dr David Supple, said: “This initiative is about educating people on how they can treat their own short-term minor illnesses and those of their children, with guidance from a local pharmacist if needed. Of course GPs will still be able to prescribe these medicines in exceptional circumstances, such as when patients are experiencing long-term chronic pain or sensitivity, but in the majority of cases a prescription for paracetamol or ibuprofen isn’t necessary.”
*A packet of 16 paracetamol tablets cost 19p and a packet of 16 generic ibuprofen costs 35p in nationwide pharmacy Boots in July 2016.
**Research carried out by NHS Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group via Survey Monkey on Facebook and Twitter