GPs face curbs on prescribing blood glucose test strips and bath emollients

GPs could face restrictions on prescribing blood glucose testing strips and bath emollients, following a new NHS England consultation on curbing prescribing of more 'low priority' items.

The consultation, which launched today, covers eight items (see box below) that NHS England said were ‘of relatively low clinical effectiveness, which are clinically effective but where more cost-effective items are available, or which are clinically effective but, due to the nature of the item, are deemed a low priority for NHS funding’.

At its board meeting today, NHS England also approved new guidance aimed at limiting prescribing of gluten-free products. Amendments to NHS prescribing regulations, which were pushed through by the DHSC and are due to come into force on 4 December, mean that GPs will only be able to prescribe gluten-free bread and baking mixes. They will no longer be able to issue prescriptions for other gluten-free products like cakes and biscuits.

However, NHS England's new guidance, which will be published on 4 December, says that CCGs can introduce further restrictions by allowing prescribing of bread only, mixes only or choosing 'to end prescribing of all gluten-free foods if they feel this is appropriate for their population'.

Prescribing restrictions

The 'low priority' items consultation is recommending that in patients with type 2 diabetes GPs should not prescribe any blood glucose testing strips that cost more than £10 for 50. GPs should also no longer prescribe bath or shower emollients and instead prescribe a 'leave on' preparation, the consultation suggests.

NHS England said that restricting prescribing of the eight items would save the NHS almost £70m a year. The consultation will run until 28 February.

The proposal follows moves earlier this year to restrict GPs prescribing OTC medicines for 35 minor ailments and short-term self-limiting illnesses. Last year, NHS England also said GPs should no longer prescribe 18 other ‘low value treatments’, which included fish oil, herbal remedies and homeopathy.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, said: 'The NHS is one of the most efficient health services in the world but, as part of the long term plan for the NHS, we’re determined to make taxpayers’ money go further and drive savings back into frontline care. It is essential the NHS should not be paying for anything which has been proven to be ineffective or where there are safer or cheaper alternatives.'

  • Respond to the consultation here.
'Low priority' items
NHS England is consulting on introducing prescribing restrictions on the following items:
  • Silk garments
  • Aliskiren – used to treat blood pressure
  • Amiodarone – used to treat abnormal heart rhythms
  • Bath and shower emollient preparations
  • Dronedarone – used to treat atrial fibrillation
  • Minocycline – used to treat acne
  • Blood glucose testing strips
  • Needles for pre-filled and reusable insulin pens – proposed recommendations are focused on substitution for more cost-effective products rather than a reduction in prescribing of these items.

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