GPs must exclude financially vulnerable from prescriptions ban

Thu, 29 March 2018

National Voices responds to NHS England's approval of guidance that limits patients’ access to some prescribed treatments.

NHS England has today approved guidance to limit patients’ access to some prescribed treatments.

The national body has published the guide to dissuade GPs and others from prescribing treatments that can otherwise be bought over-the-counter without a prescription.

The guidance does, however, give GPs and other prescribers the power to continue prescribing these items if they believe a patient’s ability to self-manage is compromised by their medical, mental health or significant social vulnerability.

National Voices, the coalition of health and care charities, argues that the ‘social vulnerability’ exemption must include those living in a financially vulnerable situation. GPs should protect those who cannot afford over-the-counter treatments which they would have previously received free of charge via a prescription.

Commenting on the guidance, Andrew McCracken from National Voices, the coalition of health and care charities, said:

“Thanks to pressure from National Voices and other organisations, the guidance issued today incudes some welcome exemptions for people because of their health condition and social vulnerability.

“However, the guidance still leaves gaps that some people could fall through if they rely on certain medications but can’t afford them.

“Many people are entitled to free prescriptions, and whilst some of those people may be able to pay, a significant number rely on free prescriptions because of their financially vulnerable situation. This guidance risks leaving people unable to afford medicines they rely on.

“GPs must use their own medical judgement and work in partnership with their patients. They should continue to prescribe treatments to people who cannot afford to buy them over-the-counter.”

NHS England has deemed some minor conditions ‘self-limiting’, meaning they will run their course and clear up without the need for treatment. For those conditions, only some exemptions apply. People living with chronic conditions that are aggravated by ‘self-limiting’ ailments may no longer be able to be prescribed treatments to manage their symptoms.


Andrew McCracken, National Voices’ Head of Communications, 020 3176 0737,

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