The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that patients will no longer receive prescriptions, for minor conditions, if the medication is readily available over-the-counter (OTC) in pharmacies or supermarkets.

Instead, from Monday, January 29 they will be advised which treatments or medication to purchase by their GP, nurse or community pharmacist.

This new policy will primarily affect medications such as paracetamol, throat lozenges or vitamins, and conditions such as cystitis or dandruff. 

These items are often cheaper to buy directly when compared to the cost of a prescription.

The current cost of a prescription is £3.85 per item, compared to boxes of paracetamol that are available for less than £1 over the counter.

This new prescribing policy from the DHSC applies to medications being used for conditions that would ordinarily clear up without treatment or for minor conditions that are appropriate for treatment at home.  

Any patients using over the counter medications as part of the management or treatment of a more long-term condition will continue to receive it on prescription.

Government say signposting patients to their local community pharmacist for guidance around minor conditions 'should make it easier and quicker for them to get the advice they need'.

It's also to 'help reduce the number of GP appointments used for the assessment of minor conditions, ensuring more vulnerable patients can be seen in a timely manner'.

The health care provider has said that changes to services and prescriptions such as this should mean it can 'better manage continuing cost pressures'.

It said the over the counter medications are low-cost items easily available for purchase and stopping prescribing 'saves not just the cost of the medicines themselves but also Manx Care’s costs throughout the entire process, such as professional costs and time of GP/nurse to generate the prescription, professional costs and time to dispense the medicines and transportation costs for completed prescriptions to be sent to pharmacies.'

The conditions that are impacted by the policy include items of low clinical effectiveness, such as probiotics and vitamins and minerals, self-limiting conditions, such as accute sort throat, infrequent cold sores of the lip and haemorrhoids, and minor conditions suitable for self-care, including dandruff, mild acne, oral thrush and mild toothache.

Minister for Health and Social Care Lawrie Hooper commented on this change. He said: 'This policy is a step in the right direction to ensure we’re providing an efficient, accessible and sustainable service, and that we’re using our resources effectively.

'I’d encourage everyone to make better use of the wealth of experience and advice available to us all at our local community pharmacies and other services available in the community.’  

Maria Bell, Pharmaceutical Adviser for Manx Care, added: 'We hope that this will build upon the wider awareness campaign to help the public make greater use of existing community pharmacy services on the island.

'These changes support the strategic plan for health and social care, aspiring to ensure that people receive the right care, at the right time, and in the right place.

'We would like to reassure patients that pharmacists will always advise those with more concerning or serious symptoms (”red flag symptoms”) to access more appropriate and urgent care.

'Additionally, if symptoms are not improving or responding to treatment, patients will be encouraged to seek further advice.’ 

To find out more about this change, or any frequently asked questions regarding over the counter services, the DHSC is encouraging people to visit