NHS must have 'brave and honest' debate about rationing, RCGP says

The NHS needs to have a 'brave and honest' debate about rationing and whether it should continue to fund medicines available OTC, RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada has argued.

Professor Gerada: a national debate on rationing is needed
Professor Gerada: a national debate on rationing is needed

Professor Gerada raised the issue in response to GP magazine’s report that two thirds of GPs think that the NHS should stop providing free prescriptions for drugs that are available OTC.

‘In cash-strapped times we might need to rationalise what is available on prescription and be brave and honest,’ she said.

Writing on social networking site Twitter, Professor Gerada said NHS GP prescriptions for drugs available OTC could end up costing the state £30, rather than the £1 cost of many medicines in a pharmacy.

‘I don’t think OTC [medicines] should be "free" – someone pays, if only the state,’ she said.

Asked if she would support formal restrictions on NHS funding of products available OTC, she replied: ‘I would support a sensible debate, backed by evidence and patient involvement. … This is something that requires national DH leadership.’

She added: ‘Debate mustn’t be in the consulting room, it should be nationally led as part of debate [on] "what should NHS provide".’

Professor Gerada also praised GP for ‘doing a good job highlighting this issue’. ‘It’s important that the debate is opened up, she said.

‘The debate on Twitter about this is better than I have ever seen,’ she added. ‘[It] shows the public want to be involved.’

This week, GP revealed that, while experts have said the 'blacklist' of treatments the NHS will not fund must be updated to cut costs, DH officials believe changing it could breach EU law.

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