Patients will no longer be able to get paracetamol and other over-the-counter remedies to treat minor conditions on the NHS.
Under drastic cost-saving plans doctors will be banned from routinely handing out treatment for ailments such as, colds, constipation, dandruff and indigestion.
The crackdown which is set to save almost £100million a year, applies to medication that can be bought in chemists. This also includes treatments for diarrhoea, athletes’ foot, sore throats, coughs, colds, warts and ulcers.
Health chiefs say they need to “prioritise” limited resources and these ailments can be self-managed or will clear up themselves without drugs.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said, “Across the NHS our aim is to: ‘Think like a patient, act like a taxpayer’.
“The NHS is probably the most efficient health service in the world, but we’re determined to keep pushing further.
“Every pound we save from cutting waste is another pound we can then invest in better A&E care, new cancer treatments and much better mental health services.”
People who get free prescriptions, such as those on low incomes, won’t automatically be exempt from the rules.
However, those with long-term or serious illnesses, for which these conditions are side-effects, will continue to get these items on the NHS.
Many of the products included in the cuts can be purchased over the counter for a fraction of what it costs the NHS to prescribe them.
It costs the NHS £34 to prescribe a box of 32 paracetamol tablets, including dispensing and GP consultation fees, yet they cost just 95p in a chemist.
A pack of 12 anti-sickness tablets, for example, costs as little as £2.18 in a chemist but £35 when dispensing fees, GP appointment and admin charges are added.
The NHS spends £22.8million a year on constipation, which is enough to fund around 900 community nurses.
It also costs around £3million a year on athletes’ foot and other fungal infections, which could fund 810 hip replacements, while £2.1million a year is spent on diarrhoea, which would pay for 2,912 cataract operations.
Dr Graham Jackson, from NHS Clinical Commissioners, said, “It is not good use of the NHS’s limited resources to issue prescriptions for these products.
“We recognise that it may be difficult for some patients who have previously been prescribed these products, but it is right that we prioritise our spending on those that provide the best outcomes.”
John O’Connell, from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said, “Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for items like anti-dandruff shampoo or athlete’s foot powder.
“Cutting out wasteful spending like this will mean that precious resources can be focused on frontline services.
“Patients too must remember that these items are not ‘free’ – the money comes out of taxpayers’ pockets, so NHS England should be applauded for this move.”