My Medicines My Health has been developed by Clinical Commissioning Groups in the North East and North Cumbria, in an attempt to reduce unnecessary pressures and strain on the NHS.
The campaign aims to inform the public of simple and easy-to-follow health advice that will collectively have a positive effect on the NHS. In turn, these kinds of savings will allow the NHS to be able to invest more in the services that are needed most, such as new cancer treatments and improvements to mental health services.
A key focus of the campaign is raising awareness around the costs of prescribing medicines that are routinely available to buy from supermarkets and local pharmacies.
These products can be purchased readily over the counter for a lower price than it costs for the NHS to prescribe. One such example is a pack of 12 anti-sickness tablets which can be bought for £2.18 from a pharmacy. For the NHS, after including dispensing fees this would be over £3 and when you include GP consultation and other administration costs, over £35!
On average, similarly common medicines are four times more expensive when provided on prescription by the NHS.
In the North East and North Cumbria alone, prescribing readily available medication costs the NHS £6.64m every year. This is the equivalent of paying for 440 breast cancer treatment courses or 6579 Alzheimer’s drug courses.
The most heavily prescribed of these medicines is paracetamol. And while there are over the counter limitations to how many can be bought and their strength, for most patients suffering with general issues such as headaches, aches and pains and minor illnesses, your pharmacist will have you fully covered.
My Medicines My Health also helps spread seasonal health messages, particularly over the peak summer and winter months.
For warmer weather at home there’s a focus on hay fever, allergies and sun advice. As with paracetamol, many adequate hay fever and allergy medicines are readily available on the high street, along with expert advice from pharmacists. Despite allergies being unavoidable for many, handy tips and sometimes lesser-known advice can help sufferers reduce and deal with symptoms.
There’s also a focus on those lucky enough to be heading abroad or to warmer climes over the summer. These messages predominantly focus on preparing for your trip, stocking up on first-aid travel essentials and asking your pharmacist for specific destination advice.
When the weather turns cooler emphasis shifts to reducing winter pressures throughout the NHS. Largely this is around cold and flu advice and simple ways to help keep tickly coughs and blocked noses at bay.
Posts are also aligned with wider NHS messages such as annual flu vaccine campaigns, and attempts to minimise the overall impact of viruses and bugs.
Keeping an eye on your health through exercise and healthy eating is one of the simplest ways to make sure you remain in good shape, while also helping to ease pressures on the NHS.
Exercise and fitness doesn’t have to be about going to the gym or running marathons. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help keep you fit and healthy, with activities as simple as walking, cycling and even dancing all playing their part.
Making sure you eat a balanced diet should also be at the forefront of your mind when looking after your health. Vitamins, minerals and making sure you eat your five a day are all key staples of a good balanced diet. And just as exercise doesn’t have to be about running marathons, there are plenty of inventive ways you can make sure you’re eating the right foods. Take a look at some of these top tips from NHS Choices for more.
My Medicines My Health also covers general health advice such as preventing the spread of germs and bacteria, and year-round tips for coughs and the common cold.
Raising awareness of the availability of laxatives in local pharmacies and supermarkets is also a key target. Each year the NHS spends £22.8 million on constipation – that’s enough to fund around 900 community nurses! In many cases a change of diet to include more fibre can help, as well as advice and over the counter laxatives from your local pharmacy.
While every parent’s main concern is their child’s health, there can be occasions where preventions, treatments and reassurances can be made without seeing a GP. The NHS Child Health App provides parents and carers with easy to understand guidance on childhood illnesses; covering everything from oral health, upset tummies and diarrhoea to advice on bumps and bruises. The app is available to download on both Apple and Google devices.
Whether it’s advice on conditions or over the counter medicines, pharmacies are your healthcare professional on the high street. You won’t need an appointment and in most cases it’s easier and faster than seeing your GP.
If your symptoms get worse or don’t improve after taking medicines from the pharmacy, make an appointment with your GP. Of course for serious illnesses, injuries or conditions, head straight to A&E.
If you take care of the little things, your NHS can keep taking care of you!
We’ve already seen impressive savings across the North East and North Cumbria, with over £1m saved on the prescribing of products for hay fever and simple pain relief alone between April 2018 and March 2019.
This included the distribution of 300,000 patient leaflets, along with supporting materials for practices and patients that were available via a dedicated website.
Several other regions have requested this campaign artwork to help promote similar messages in their area. Similar national guidance has since been released covering this topic, which has already been implemented locally saving an additional £1.1m in the past year and £2.2m over two years.
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