Painkiller prescription funding scrapped by Brighton and Hove NHS

Katy Jackson, Chief Pharmacist at NHS Brighton and Hove CCG 

(Photograph: Sam Stephenson)
Katy Jackson, Chief Pharmacist at NHS Brighton and Hove CCG (Photograph: Sam Stephenson)

Health commissioners in Brighton and Hove will stop funding prescriptions for paracetamol and ibuprofen in a bid to save £500,000 a year.

More than 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, bruising, period pains and sprains. But the CCG said the drugs are approximately four times more expensive when prescribed on the NHS compared to when they are purchased in pharmacies or supermarkets.

The new initiative by the Brighton and Hove NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is called ‘HelpMyNHS’, and aims to ensure the most efficient use of local NHS funding, encouraging a public behaviour change around the treatment of minor ailments and help ease demand on GP appointments.

The CCG said 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.

It estimates that the money saved by not funding paracetamol and ibuprofen prescriptions could provide the NHS in Brighton and Hove with: 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.

HelpMyNHS posters and leaflets are now 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.

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.”

Dr David Supple, Brighton GP and CCG chair, 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.”