NHS managers ban access to branded medicines for some patients

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NHS managers in Yorkshire have put a ban on patients getting access to branded medicines.

The NHS North Kirklees and NHS Greater Huddersfield clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which control millions of pounds of funding, said "requests by patients for more expensive brands of medicines will not be routinely supported where an appropriate, alternative generic medicine is available".

It has also said it will stop funding items that can be bought in supermarkets and chemists, including lactose-free formula for babies with allergies.

The move comes as health bodies across England ration services in an attempt to cut spending.

David Kelly, GP and chairman of the NHS North Kirklees governing body, said: "NHS services are improving and as a result, more people are living longer. But, we are also seeing increasing demand for NHS care, alongside rising costs.

"This means we have had to look at using our budget in a different way. Decisions like this are difficult and we know that some people will find them hard to accept, but the money saved can be spent on things that have much more of an impact on people's health."

Steve Ollerton, GP and chairman of NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG, said: "The NHS budget is just the same as everyone's household budget - we can only spend the money we have. When the bills get higher we have to tighten our belt and cannot always keep buying more services."

The list of items that will no longer be available on prescription include gluten-free foods, sunscreen, soya and thickened infant formula milk as well as formula for lactose intolerance.

Cream for unwanted facial hair and other products that have a "predominantly cosmetic action" will also not be available on the NHS, alongside moisturisers for minor skin conditions, camouflage products for birth marks, and multivitamins, where no specific deficiency has been identified.

The CCGs said GPs will still be able to prescribe these products in certain circumstances, such as when a consultant says they should be used.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ), which first reported the story, said the plans were intended to save £1 million.

The CCGs have also banned individual funding requests - where doctors request a treatment for a certain patient - for 18 months unless the patient's condition is immediately life-threatening, or where delay would lead to risk of harm such as death or disability, or where the procedure needs to be performed within a strict time-frame to be effective.