Folder Over The Counter products (OTC)

Over The Counter (OTC) Medicines

In the year prior to June 2017, the NHS spent approximately £569 million on prescriptions for medicines which could otherwise be purchased over the counter (OTC) from a pharmacy and/or other outlets such as petrol stations or supermarkets. 

 These prescriptions include items for a condition:

  • That is considered to be self-limiting and so does not need treatment as it will heal or be cured of its own accord;
  • Which lends itself to self-care i.e. the person suffering does not normally need to seek medical advice and can manage the condition by purchasing OTC items directly.  

These prescriptions also include other common items:

  • That can be purchased over the counter, sometimes at a lower cost than that which would be incurred by the NHS;
  • For which there is little evidence of clinical effectiveness.

By reducing spend on treating conditions that are self-limiting or which lend themselves to self-care, or on items for which there is little evidence of clinical effectiveness, these resources can be used for other higher priority areas that have a greater impact for patients, support improvements in services and/or deliver transformation that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

Over the Counter and Gluten Free prescribing

To bring Herefordshire and Worcestershire policies on prescribing over the counter medicines and gluten free foods in to alignment to support primary care capacity and patient self-care, Herefordshire CCG is proposing to restrict the prescribing of over the counter medicines for short-term, self-limiting conditions and also to stop the prescribing of gluten-free foods. We welcome your views.

OTC staff information slide pack

OTC Frequently asked questions


Link to Gloucestershire CCG OTC statement and YouTube video

Link to Worcestershire CCG OTC policy document

Link to NHS England information for CCGs

Quick reference guidance for healthcare professionals from NHSE


pdf OTC FAQs ( pdf, 248 KB ) (64 downloads)
pdf OTC guidance for CCGs March 2018 ( pdf, 614 KB ) (208 downloads) Popular
pdf OTC staff slide info pack ( pdf, 896 KB ) (58 downloads)