£80 million a year is currently being spent on prescriptions for paracetamol available twenty times cheaper in supermarkets. 22 million prescriptions a year are issued costing £3.67 per packet – whilst supermarket prices range from 19p per packet.
Other items to be withdrawn from prescription include treatments for heartburn, indigestion, hay fever, coughs and colds as well as sun creams, travel vaccinations and gluten free foods.
But, not only is the NHS currently issuing drugs that can be bought more cheaply over the counter, over £300 million worth are not being used, potentially leading to further problems and an increased burden on hospital beds and patient care.
We can also assume that some of these drugs are flushed down the toilet, polluting waterways and ending up in the food chain (see The Environmental Cost of Healthcare). Our reliance on prescriptions as a ‘cure all’ may well be harming us, and is contributing to pressure on the NHS.
£80 million could provide 2,500 extra nurses, hundreds of scanners and other essential equipment or more expensive drugs such as cancer treatments. Just think what £300 million could do.
We need to stop providing medicines for people they can easily and cheaply access themselves, and we need to ensure that any prescriptions issued are correctly used. These are simple issues that could lead to better use of the funds available to the NHS.