Position statement: ‘Low-value’ prescriptions

Fri, 21 July 2017

NHS England has launched a public consultation aimed at restricting the prescribing of treatments and remedies that are judged to be of ‘low clinical value’. National Voices has expressed a number of concerns about the nature of this consultation process.

Today (21 July 2017) the Board of NHS England has approved the launch of a public consultation, which will result in statutory guidance to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), aimed at restricting the prescribing of treatments and remedies that are judged to be of ‘low clinical value’.

National Voices, the coalition of health and care charities, has a number of concerns about the nature of this consultation process. These are set out in a position statement.

Read National Voices' position statement in full.

Commenting on the consultation, Don Redding, Director of Policy at National Voices, said:

Whilst some treatments are available to purchase over-the-counter, that does not mean that everyone can afford them.

There will be distinct categories of people who rely on NHS funding for prescriptions of remedies that are otherwise available over-the-counter.

Stopping such prescriptions would break with the principle of an NHS ‘free at the point of use’ and would create a system where access to treatments is based on a person’s ability to pay.

The risk is that the NHS would be saying that it will not support poor people to treat their kids’ head lice, or to manage complications such as persistent constipation or the vulnerability of their skin to damaging sunlight.

Decisions where this principle is at stake must be made by democratically accountable authorities.

NHS England point out that some of these treatments can be bought over-the-counter at a cheaper price than the NHS can prescribe them. That raises questions about NHS procurement and negotiations with industry. It is not a problem to pass on to the poorest patients.

We agree that the prescribing of ineffective or ‘no value’ treatment should be stopped, but decisions on what treatments are deemed low value must be made in partnership with the people and patients who will be affected by any changes. The eventual guidance must allow for individual and group cases, and not push people into pleading exceptional cases.

Read National Voices' position statement in full.

Contact

For further comment and interview requests, contact Andrew Mccracken on 020 3176 0737or andrew.mccracken@nationalvoices.org.uk.

Notes

According to Government figures, 88% of prescription items in England are dispensed free of charge, mostly to the over-60s, the under 16s, people living with cancer, pregnant women, and those on low incomes. Prescriptions are free for everyone in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

National Voices is the coalition of charities that stands for people being in control of their health and care.