No More Free Pile Cream, Says NHS Boss

By Holly Brockwell on at

The Chief Exec of NHS England has announced a list of treatments that GPs will be told to stop prescribing, including hayfever remedies, gluten-free food and haemorrhoid cream.

The plan hasn't been formally announced yet, but NHS head Simon Stevens told the Daily Mail that the organisation is "wasting" precious resources that could be spent on new treatments.

Prescriptions to be cut include:

  • Some painkillers and cough remedies
  • Travel vaccinations
  • Treatments for upset stomachs and travel sickness
  • Suncream
  • Omega 3 supplements

Many of the prescribed items are readily available over the counter, and usually for a lot less than the standard £8.40 prescription charge. However, prescriptions are free to over-60s, under-16s, under-18s in full-time education, pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions and disabilities, people whose partners receive Jobseeker's Allowance, and a whole range of other groups.

Additionally, many people buy a 3- or 12-month prescription prepayment certificate, which covers unlimited prescriptions during that time period.

If you're wondering why the NHS was prescribing things like suncream in the first place, it's usually for a good reason: people with photosensitive skin as a result of cancer treatment, for instance. Nonetheless, when the NHS is seriously strapped for cash, it does make sense to ask people to pay for cheap, easily-available treatments.

Stevens says cutting these kinds of prescriptions will save millions:

"There’s £114m being spent on medicine for upset tummies, haemorrhoids, travel sickness, indigestion, and that’s before you get to the £22m-plus on gluten-free that you can also now get at Morrisons, Lidl or Tesco's.

Part of what we are trying to do is make sure that we make enough headroom to spend money on innovative new drugs by not wasting it on these kind of items."

On the downside, now we have to ask for pile cream at busy pharmacist counters. FYI, it's pronounced an-you-sol.