Prescribing changes could save NHS £569 million

NHS commissioners in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw are asking local people to help them save a share of £569 million
Man speaking to someone working in a health centre

Over the counter medicines

The NHS can spend as much as £569 million in a year prescribing medicines that can be bought from high street pharmacies, supermarkets and even petrol stations. These are called ‘over the counter medicines’ and are generally used at home to treat minor and common illnesses and conditions that don’t need the attention of a doctor.

Survey results

A recent survey showed that over 80% of people would be happy to buy their medication over the counter, rather than use a NHS prescription for their minor illness.

The key message in the campaign is that medicines that are available to buy over the counter will not generally be prescribed by GPs and other prescribers across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.

Pharmacist Rob Wise, Head of Medicines Management at Bassetlaw Clinical Commissioning Group is leading the drive to save money on over the counter medicines across Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley, Rotherham and Bassetlaw districts. He said: 

‘Every £1 million saved could pay for 39 more community nurses; 270 more hip replacements or 66 more courses of drug treatment for breast cancer. By saving money on prescriptions for medicines that people can buy for themselves, and which are often cheaper over the counter than the prescription charge, we can invest in more of the services and treatments’

Doncaster people have their say

More than 3,300 people in Doncaster responded to the extensive survey undertaken in November 2018, with just over 80% of local people saying they would be happy to purchase medicines that can be bought over the counter. In response to this, a local campaign was launched in January this year which has already reached more than 100,000 people across the borough.

Promoting self-care

Dr David Crichton, Chair of Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group said:

‘It’s really important we encourage people to purchase over the counter medications when they are necessary and to do this we are promoting self care as an alternative to prescribing. We can save money and improve health and well-being at the same time. There’s more information available on our website and on social media. We want to work together to make the best use of our NHS in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw. Further details on both our 569 million reasons campaign and our current self care campaign are available on our website.’

Self-care campaign

NHS Doncaster CCG launched a self care campaign last month and reaction has been very positive on the CCG’s Facebook page, with likes and positive endorsements. Self care promotes wellbeing by promoting and educating members of the public to understand how and when it is most appropriate to treat minor ailments by using over the counter medications. People are being encouraged to ask their pharmacist about treating these illnesses effectively with over the counter medications.

The report from the 569 million reasons campaign consultation is available on our website here

Details about our self care campaign are available here

We are using the hashtags #SelfCareDon and #569millionreasons on social media.

Notes to editors:

More information about the campaign, including the independent survey report, is available online at 

In early 2018 NHS England carried out a public consultation on reducing prescribing of over the counter (OTC) medicines for minor, short-term health concerns which could save the NHS high costs and encourage more people to self-care. The NHS is taking this action to make the policy clear and fair across the country – no postcode lottery for over the counter medications.

The South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System (SYB ICS) carried out its own public engagement exercise in late 2018 to raise awareness of the challenge among people living in Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Bassetlaw districts. SYB ICS is a partnership of organisations working together to improve the health of local people. Members of the ICS are:

NHS Trusts

  • Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust
  • Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
  • The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust
  • Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust
  • South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Associate partners

  • Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust

Strategic partners

  • Health Education England
  • NHS England
  • Public Health England
  • Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network

Transformation programmes

  • Commissioners Working Together
  • Working Together Partnership Vanguard


University of Sheffield


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