NHS spending on over-the-counter (OTC) medication in England fell by £25.9m, despite promises of up to £100m in savings.

In March last year, NHS England issued guidance to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to ‘free up’ up to £100 million by reducing the number of prescriptions for OTC medicine.

NHS England recently issued a ‘letter of comfort’ to GPs, reassuring them they would not be ‘at risk of breaching their contract’ if they refused to prescribe OTC medication.

However, in the 12 months to January 2019, the NHS spent £449.4 million on OTC medication. That is a total of £25.9 million in savings, compared with the £475.3 million the NHS spent the previous year.

The figures were revealed in a written statement by new pharmacy minister Seema Kennedy last week.

She said: ‘This saving does not account for the potential impact to the NHS from a reduced number of GP appointments, for which no assessment has been made.’

The guidance outlined its proposals for CCGs to curb routine prescribing of 35 minor, short-term conditions such as constipation, diarrhoea and athlete’s foot.

The goal at the time, according to NHS England was that the rationing 'will free up NHS funds for frontline care.’

This story was originally published by our sister publication Pulse