Why can’t I get a prescription for an over-the-counter medicine?
A GP, nurse or pharmacist will generally not give you a prescription for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for a range of minor health conditions.
This is because of government policy to reduce the amount of money the NHS spends on prescriptions for treating minor conditions that usually get better on their own.
Instead, OTC medicines are available to buy in a pharmacy or supermarket. Find your nearest pharmacy.
In some cases, you can still get prescriptions for medicines used to treat minor conditions. The NHS website provides details of these exceptions.
Please help the NHS to use resources sensibly.
Why does the NHS need to reduce prescriptions for over the counter medicines?
Before these changes in 2018, the NHS spent around £569 million a year on prescriptions for medicines that can be bought from a pharmacy or supermarket, such as paracetamol.
By reducing the amount it spends on OTC medicines, the NHS can give priority to treatments for people with more serious conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and mental health problems.
How your local pharmacy team can help you
Your local pharmacy team are qualified healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to help with many health concerns.
Pharmacists can give clinical advice, right there and then, and help you choose the most appropriate treatment. If your symptoms suggest it’s more serious, they’ll ensure you get the care you need.
What can you do?
Keeping a few useful medicines at home means you can treat common conditions immediately without needing to see a healthcare
These could include:
- Painkillers to help with pain, discomfort and fever
- Indigestion medicines, oral rehydration salts and treatments for constipation and diarrhoea
- Treatments for seasonal conditions like colds and hay fever
- Sunblock and after sun
- Basic first aid items (for example plasters or antiseptic cream)
If you have children, make sure you also have products suitable for them. Speak to your local pharmacy team about what medicines to keep at home, where to store them safely and how to use them.
What if my symptoms don’t improve?
Your local pharmacy team can tell you how long to expect the symptoms of your condition to last. If they haven’t improved after this time or you start to feel a lot worse, you should:
- Go back to the pharmacy for further advice
- Call NHS111
- Contact your GP
Visit the NHS Website and services near you to help you choose the right service. A&E and 999 should only be used for serious and life-threatening emergencies
Finding more information and support
Visit the NHS website nhs.uk for information and advice on treating minor health concerns.
Find out more about this change to prescription policy at nhs.uk.