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Your NHS can pay up to ten times more for medicines for short-term minor ailments if you choose to get it on prescription. It's cheaper, quicker and easier to buy them yourself from a pharmacy - they can also give you advice. Medicines are also available from shops such as supermarkets.

Many medicines are cheaper whern you buy them yourself - standalone image

You don't need to go to your GP practice for medicines for short-term minor ailments. It is cheaper to buy medicines yourself, they can cost from as little as 20p. Better still, you don't need to make an appointment or travel to your GP practice - you can pick them up when it's convienent for you. 

If you are unsure about which medicines to buy, you can visit your pharmacist for free advice. Pharmacists are experts on medicines and minor ailments. They can give you advice on how to manage your condition and which medicines would be the most effective. 

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A - Z of health conditions

NHS Data

In March 2018 NHS England produced over the counter (OTC) medicines guidance to reduce the routine prescribing of products that are for:

  • self-limiting conditions, which do not require any medical advice or treatment as it will clear up on their own, such as sore throats, coughs and colds.
  • conditions where people can self-care, where treatment is available through medicines which can be bought over the counter from a pharmacy, such as indigestion, mouth ulcers and warts and verrucae.

Your GP, nurse or pharmacist will generally not give you a prescription for over the counter medicines for a range of short-term minor health conditions.

Instead, you can buy these medicines from a pharmacy or supermarket. The team at the pharmacy will be able to give you clinical advice to help you manage common minor health concerns. This can include coughs, colds, acne, minor pain, discomfort and fever. You can take a look at a full list of minor health concerns for which you should buy your own medicines over the counter here

You can also visit the NHS website for information and advice on minor health concerns

    Find local services

    A - Z of health conditions

    NHS Data

    Information for professionals

    NHS Clinical Commissioners have produced a quick reference guide for healthcare professionals, you can view this guide on their website. This guide contains information about medicines which should not routinely be prescribed over the counter. 

    PresQIPP have also produced a number of videos which GP practices can use in a variety of settings such as waiting rooms. These videos relate to self care and follow NHS England guidance around prescribing of over the counter medicines. Please note that you need a PresQIPP account to view these videos. 

    Further information for patients

    NHS England have produced a leaflet for patients which explains why prescribing of over the counter medicines is changing, you can view this leaflet here

    NHS England have also produced a quick information sheet on which minor health concerns your local pharmacy team can help you with, you can view this leaflet here

    You can download a patient information leaflet about buying your own medicines here 

    Find out more about reducing medicines waste here.

    You can also share information on social media using #ItsOurNHS

    Information about changes to treatment or medicines on the NHS

    In December 2017, the NHS asked prescribers to stop or greatly reduce the prescribing of some medicines. This was because they are either, not as safe as other medicines, not as effective as other medicines or, more expensive than other medicines that have the same effect. A list of these medicines and treatments are below. Click on each for a patient information leaflet which explains more.

    Co-proxamol | Dosulepin | Doxazosin | Glucosomine | Herbal treatment | Homeopathy | Immediate release fentanyl | Lidocaine plaster | Liothyronine | Lutein and antioxidant supplements | Omega 3 fatty acids | Once daily tadalafil | Perindopril arginine | Rubefacients | Targinact | Tramacet | Travel vaccines |Trimipramine

    You can read more about the changes in this patient information leaflet.