Alternative treatments such as homeopathy will no longer be a ‘drain’ on NHS resources as they are to be taken off prescription in a large-scale bid to save money.
NHS England has launched a public consultation on its detailed plans, which aim to save £141 million a year by cutting out prescriptions of 18 specified treatments. The money would then be reinvested into the generation of newer, more effective medicines.
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Homeopathy, one of the key targets of the plans, was described by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens as ‘at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds’. A further 3,200 prescription items already available over the counter at pharmacies and in retail outlets are being eyed for cutting.
Mr Stevens said: ‘The NHS is probably the world’s most efficient health service, but like every country there is still waste and inefficiency that we’re determined to root out.
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‘The public rightly expects that the NHS will use every pound wisely, and today we’re taking practical action to free up funding to better spend on modern drugs and treatments.’
Initial action to limit prescribing of products such as cough mixture, eye drops, laxatives and sun cream would seek to save £50-100 million a year in taxpayers’ money.
Restricting the availability of gluten-free foods on prescription to save £26 million a year, is an idea currently subject to a Department of Health consultation. NHS England expressed their support.
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NHS England medical director Bruce Keogh said: ‘At a time when we need to find all the money we can for new, highly effective drugs we must ensure every pound is spent wisely.
‘An honest, plain English conversation is required about what we should fund and what we should not. We need to end unnecessary expense to give us a bigger therapeutic bang for the NHS buck so we cut the fat and build the therapeutic muscle.’