Analysis The NHS spends millions prescribing common painkillers sunscreen and glutenfree food

first_imgThe NHS spent more than £100m prescribing common painkillers last year as well as £14m on gluten-free bread and nearly £4m on sunscreen.The analysis by The Telegraph comes on the same day that NHS chief, Simon Stevens, has announced the NHS will no longer pay for patients to have common over-the-counter medicines and free-from food.Under the plans outlined by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, patients will have to cough-up for things like painkillers, sunscreen and gluten-free food.It forms part of an effort reduce health service spending by £1bn. While only a minority of patients are eligible for free prescriptions, the fact that these medicines are commonly available on the high street raises questions as to why the NHS needs to provide them at all.The NHS also currently prescribes a range of free-from foods for people suffering from conditions such as Coeliac disease*. This budget is expected to rise by about £9.6 billion over this parliament, taking inflation into account.So the total £114 m spent on painkillers and £22m on gluten-free products that Mr Stevens mentioned doesn’t even account for one per cent of NHS spending. The NHS funding gapIn 2013, NHS England said that it would face a funding gap of £30bn by 2020 in order to care for the UK’s growing and ageing population.To tackle this, it laid out plans to find £22bn of savings, with the Conservative Government pledging to provide the other £8bn in their 2015 election manifesto. How does this compare to overall NHS spending?Around 16pc of what the government spends each year goes to health in England – the majority of which is the £101bn for NHS England (in 2015/16). As much as £13.7m was spent on prescribing gluten-free, wheat-free and low protein bread to patients in 2016, while free-from cakes, biscuits and pastries can all be prescribed through the NHS. *This piece has been altered since its initial publication. It incorrectly referenced people suffering from Coeliac disease as having an intolerance to certain foods, as opposed to them suffering from an autoimmune condition. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “There’s £114 million being spent on medicines for upset tummies, haemorrhoids, travel sickness, indigestion, that’s even before you get on to the £22 million-plus on gluten-free that you can also now get at Morrisons, Lidl or Tesco’s,” Mr Stevens told the Daily Mail.”We will be backing them in new national guidelines that say those should not routinely be prescribed on the NHS.”Analysis of NHS data shows that £68m was spent by the service in prescribing paracetamol last year, while £45m was spent on aspirin and £23.5m on ibuprofen.last_img

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