Self care

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GP practices NO LONGER provide prescriptions for medicines that you can buy at the pharmacy, supermarket or elsewhere.

In 2017 the NHS spent approximately £569million on Over the Counter (OTC) medicines in England. This is money that could be used to support more serious and/or long-term health conditions.

What has changed?

Some medicines, that are available to buy OTC from pharmacies and supermarkets, are no longer prescribed by GP practices. GP practices will advise patients to buy these medicines OTC.

The medicines affected are those used to treat minor, short-term health conditions, which:

  • you can easily treat yourself (self-care) or
  • should get better on their own (self-limiting)

This change applies to OTC medicines for the conditions listed here.

Why did we make these changes?

In March 2018, following national public consultation, NHS England published national guidance on reducing the prescribing of OTC medicines for minor, short-term health conditions.

It costs the NHS much more to prescribe these medicines on a prescription than if they are bought OTC. This is because the NHS has to pay extra fees for the medical consultation(s) and for the pharmacy to supply them.

Below are some suggestions of what you can buy over-the-counter for minor conditions to easily treat yourself

+ These items are only available from your pharmacy


  • Coal tar shampoo
  • Ketoconazole shampoo

Dermatitis / dry skin

  • Moisturising cream
  • Hydrocortisone cream (10yrs+) +

Dry eyes

  • Hypromellose 0.3% eye drops
  • Carbomer 0.2% gel +
  • Paraffin ointment +


  • Olive oil drops

Excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis)

  • Aluminium roll-ons

Hay fever/seasonal rhinitis

  • Cetirizine
  • Loratadine
  • Chlorphenamine +
  • Steroid nasal spray (18yrs+)
  • Sodium cromoglycate eye drops

Head lice

  • Wet combing
  • Medicated treatment

Mild acne

  • Benzoyl peroxide cream/ gel +

Insect bites and stings

  • Cetirizine Loratadine
  • Hydrocortisone cream (10yrs+) +
  • Chlorphenamine +

Mouth ulcers

  • Mouthwash
  • Gels

Nappy rash

  • Barrier cream/ointment

Nail infection (fungal)

  • A morolfine nail lacquer +

Ringworm/athletes foot – creams:

  • Miconazole
  • Terbinafine
  • Clotrimazole

Teething/mild toothache

  • Gel
  • Sachets

Travel sickness

  • Travel sickness tablets +


  • Mebendazole (2yr+) +

Thrush (oral) (4months+) +

  • Miconazole oral gel

Thrush (vaginal) – 16-65yrs:

  • Clotrimazole 2% cream +
  • Clotrimazole pessary +
  • Fluconazole once capsule +

Warts and verrucae

  • Salicylic acid gel
  • Freeze product

Minor conditions associated with pain, discomfort and/fever (e.g. aches and sprains, headaches, period pain, back pain).

  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Ibuprofen gel

What if I am exempt from paying prescription charges?

This guidance applies to ALL patients, including those who are exempt from paying prescription charges.

Where can I buy these OTC medicines?

These can be purchased without the need for a prescription from pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets.

How much do OTC medicines cost?

Just like with other goods, the price of medicines may vary between retailers so it is a good idea to shop around to get the best value.

The average cost of most of these medicines will be reasonable; many will be around £2 to £5.

What if I need my medication labelled?

Schools, holiday clubs, carers, etc. can administer medicines following the instructions on the original packaging. A pharmacy dispensing label is not legally required.

Care navigation – right care, first time

Your GP practice receptionist may advise you to visit the pharmacy first.

If you have already spoken to a pharmacist and tried OTC medicines, please bring these with you to your appointment.

Where can I get further advice?

Community pharmacies play a key role in advising patients on minor conditions that you can treat yourself. They are experts on medicines and can signpost to other services if needed.

Most pharmacies have a quiet area, away from other customers, where you can speak to a pharmacist in private. You don't need an appointment, you can just walk in. Many pharmacies also have extended opening hours, including evenings and weekends.

To locate your nearest community pharmacy visit the NHS website:

Self limiting conditions – should get better on their own

+ These items are only available from your pharmacy

Cold sores (on the lips)

  • Aciclovir cream

Conjunctivitis (Bacterial)

  • Eye bath/wash
  • Chloramphenicol drops (2yrs+) +


  • Bisacodyl
  • Senna
  • Docusate

Coughs, colds and nasal congestion

  • Cough mixtures
  • Decongestant nose drops/spray
  • Cold/flu capsules/sachets

Cradle cap

  • Emulsifying ointment +
  • Shampoos

Cystitis (mild)

  • Cystitis relief sachets


  • Creams/ointments
  • Suppositories

Infant colic

  • Simethicone suspensions

Sore throat

  • Benzydamine throat spray +
  • Lozenges

Take this information to your pharmacy or supermarket to buy the recommended product(s). If after treatment you do not feel better please seek further medical advice.

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