Please don’t ask your doctor for medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen*

In Buckinghamshire, the NHS spends £1,610,952 on prescribing items like paracetamol, remedies for indigestion or heartburn, allergy treatments, vitamin supplements and cream for dry skin. We’ve calculated that in Bucks this could have paid for:

  • 40 nurses
  • 11,364 MRI scans
  • 7,895 general hospital appointments

Medicines like these are easily available over the counter, often at a lower cost than the NHS is charged for them. Where possible, health services are asking patients to obtain these medicines themselves – it is quicker, easier, and will mean the NHS can spend more money on other services that will have greater benefit for the Buckinghamshire population.

Dr Shona Lockie, Clinical Director for the Medicines Management team at NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Whilst we know that some patients genuinely need these medicines in regular quantities for long term conditions and they will continue to be able to have them prescribed; a lot of these medicines are available to buy over the counter from your local pharmacy often at a lower cost than would be incurred by the NHS.

“So we are adopting national guidance for our local GPs which we hope will reduce our spend on around 35 different medicines and treatments for minor conditions and ailments that are usually self-limiting or which lend themselves to self-care.

“We hope that we can free up resources which can be used for other, higher priority areas that have a greater impact for patients and help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the NHS.”

Speak to your pharmacist for advice on treating minor problems; e.g. coughs and colds, mild eczema and athlete’s foot. They will always tell you if you need to see a doctor. Patients who need these drugs in regular quantities or fall into an exception category can continue to get them on prescription.

If you visit your GP who then recommends you buy the treatment, please remember they are following national guidance.

Over the counter medicines are widely available at your local pharmacy or in supermarkets and include:

  • Vitamins
  • Antihistamines and product for hayfever
  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen
  • Cough and cold remedies
  • Eyes drops for dry eyes
  • Cream for dry skin

When required in small quantities or for a short period of time, it would be quicker for you to obtain and will create less pressure on GP appointments if you were to buy these yourself without a prescription.

Further information about this, including a full list of items and exemptions from the change to prescribing, is available at:

A patient information leaflet is available at

* Patients who need these drugs in regular quantities can continue to get them on repeat prescription.