HEALTH chiefs have prescribed a dose of common sense for the town after more than £1m a year has been wasted on prescriptions for items including suncream, paracetamol and lozenges.

Since Monday, Warrington patients are now being told to buy medication for short term minor health problems themselves from pharmacies or supermarkets after the shocking figures were revealed.

The move follows an NHS Warrington Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) consultation on the proposals with 87 per cent agreeing unless there are exceptional circumstances or treatments are needed for a long term condition, medicines should not be routinely prescribed by a GP for minor short term problems.

The list of medication which used to be available on prescription includes: 

  • painkillers
  • vitamins
  • ear wax removers
  • lozenges
  • toothpaste
  • ingestion remedies
  • creams for minor scars
  • hair removal creams
  • moisturisers and bath additives for dry skin
  • food supplements often requested by people losing weight.

Clinical chief officer Dr Andy Davies said a number of items on the prescription list had 'built up' since the 1940s with many items now available over the counter.

He added: "We have got to the point where some historical stuff shouldn't be there anymore as they're not that expensive and when you compare it to the cost of prescribing it, it's just silly.

"It's down to a good management team this has been found as it's almost an invisible problem and only when you add it up across all the prescriptions made in the town that it adds up to a lot of money.

"We were worried this could have a negative impact on people who don't pay for prescriptions but during the consultation they said they were happy to buy it as they could understand it meant more money available for other things."

A number of residents who took part in the consultation said they were shocked many of the items had been available on prescription.

Dr Davies added: "We would sometimes get pre-holiday requests for suncream but it started as being for people with photosensitivity issues and prickly heat that needed a high UVA factor.

"There's a lot of affordable ones available now and two for one deals so it's more now about self-care and providing advice about how people can manage things.

"Painkillers are requested more than anything else for sports injuries including things like a sore knee or strained muscle when all that's often needed is paracetamol and rest.

"And hair removal cream has been asked for by a lot of middle-aged women which is obviously a cosmetic procedure unless it's causing significant mental health problems.

"There's always exceptions and then you go right down the scale to minor issues that you expect people to manage themselves."

Advice from health bosses over common complaints including coughs, colds, backache and cuts and grazes is to visit your nearest pharmacist rather than your GP.

Dr Catherine Doyle, Warrington CCG’s clinical lead for medicines management, said: “In Warrington we spend approximately £1 million per year on prescribing medicines which patients can buy over the counter at a much cheaper price than the cost of a prescription.

"This money could be better spent on treating more serious conditions such as heart disease or diabetes and reducing health inequalities across the town."