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Self-care campaign

​​Dr Jo Roberts urges patients to buy low-cost medicines

Patients are being urged to buy low-cost medicines and supplies from high street outlets rather than get them on prescription.

This is part of an NHS self-care policy for South Devon and Torbay, aimed at reducing the £500,000 spent on medicines and supplies for minor ailments last year.

This money, spent on medicines readily available through other means at a lower cost to patients, could have been better spent on treating more serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

As part of the self-care policy, all GPs and pharmacies in South Devon and Torbay now have a leaflet that explains why the CCG is promoting self-care and how patients can support this new initiative.

Dr Jo Roberts, the clinical lead for medicines optimisation at South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for the majority of healthcare in the area, said: “There is a limited pot of money allocated to our area and we have to spend it as wisely as possible.

“We are therefore asking that where medicines and supplies have limited clinical value to the patient or are more suitable for patients to buy themselves, people need to be responsible and use self-care.

“Many common minor ailments only last a number of days and should be initially managed with simple remedies, which are available at pharmacies or shops.

“We want to help people self-manage these so that the NHS can concentrate on helping people with more serious conditions

“It will help us ensure that patients get the best healthcare we can provide with the money available.

“For example, eczema creams are important to those with severe eczema, but they’re not important to people who have a bit of dry skin. The NHS shouldn’t pay for those creams in those situations.”

A new report by NHS England shows that one in four GP appointments are potentially avoidable, and that about one in 18 people could be treated by self-care or seen by their community pharmacist.

Pharmacies can help with a range of common conditions and minor injuries, including aches and pains, cystitis, colds and skin rashes.

Dr Roberts added: “Minor health problems like these lead to many, many thousands of GP consultations in South Devon and Torbay each year. People could save the local NHS and their GP’s time if we went to the pharmacy instead.

“This uses resources that should be used for looking after ill people. It’s about cost and capacity.

“The majority of the population manage their own minor ailments, but some people expect GPs to provide them with a prescription.

“We have to use resources to the best of our ability. If we don’t get this right now, we won’t have the money we need for the future. It’s as simple as that.

"The money needs to be prioritised. Money spent on treatments for minor ailments is money for your hip replacement in 10 years’ time.

“Most medicines for minor ailments are available quite cheaply from pharmacies, shops or supermarkets. We’re saying that people should buy them there rather than get them on prescription.”

Consultation with a pharmacist is confidential, and an appointment is not necessary to see a pharmacist, who is often available in the evenings and at weekends.