Changes to our prescription policies

This page contains information on NHS Norfolk and Waveney’s prescribing polices, and updates that we are making to reduce the number of prescriptions that are given for items that aren’t clinically effective.

We want to help people to get the best results from their medicines – and to ensure we get the best possible value for our NHS money at the same time. We cannot afford to:

  • Prescribe medicines when there is no clinical benefit, or
  • Use medicines which are not cost-effective.

The changes outlined below will help to save thousands of pounds of local NHS money which can be used to support other services.

What is changing in Norfolk and Waveney?

Our local policies were updated in 2018 in line with national guidance (and see below for more information). However, discretionary prescribing for items that aren’t clinically effective or which aren’t cost effective has continued.

Our prescribing policies have been updated to reduce the number of low priority prescriptions issued. 

The items for which the ICB will no longer authorise prescriptions are:

  • Bath Oil & Shower Preparations
  • Dental Preparations
  • Glucosamine
  • Gluten Free Preparations
  • Hayfever
  • Herbal Preparations
  • Sunscreen Preparations
  • Topical Antifungal Treatments
  • Vitamin B Supplements

More items that aren’t deemed clinically or cost effective will be added to this list as we continue to review and update our policies.

What does the national guidance say?

NHS England published guidance in 2018 on items which should not routinely be prescribed in primary care. This was designed to free up NHS funding for frontline care.

This included prescriptions for a range of minor health concerns, including:

  • Self-limiting conditions (will heal or be cured without treatment)
  • Conditions which lend themselves to Self Care (don’t usually require medical advice)
  • Some vitamins, minerals, or probiotics

These types of health concerns can be treated by medicines or items that can be bought “Over the Counter”, meaning they are readily available for purchase without a prescription from pharmacies and supermarkets – and at much lower cost than it costs the NHS to prescribe it. Click here to find out more about Over the Counter medicines.

Figures published at the time revealed that in the year prior to June 2017, the NHS had spent around £569 million a year on prescriptions for OTC medicines.

That guidance was updated in August 2023 to provide updated recommendations for items which should not be prescribed in primary care because they are unsafe, ineffective for some or all patients, or are not cost-effective.  

An FAQ on the update and what items are included has also been published here.

The changes outlined above bring our prescriptions policy in line with this updated national guidance.

You may also be interested in:

Over the Counter medicines

Find out more about NHS England’s guidance on OTC medicines

Learn more

Pharmacy Services

Find out how pharmacies can help you

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Find out about certain types of medicines, prescription exemptions, and more

Learn more