Funding drought for dry eye?

Eye drops for conjunctivitis, dry eye and hay fever will no longer be routinely prescribed under NHS proposals targeting “minor, short-term” conditions


A proposal to save the NHS £136 million by cutting funding of prescription items for “minor and/or self-limiting” conditions will limit funding for eye drops.

In a statement, the NHS reported that the measures will “rein in prescriptions for some ‘over the counter’ products such as dandruff shampoo and drops for tired eyes” while increasing the funding available for major conditions.

Eye drops for conjunctivitis, dry eye and hay fever are targeted by the proposal, which spans 35 conditions.

The NHS emphasised that the proposal would not affect prescribing of items for longer term or more complex conditions.

Every £1m saved on prescriptions can be used to fund 1040 cataract operations, the NHS emphasised.

The annual NHS spend on dandruff shampoos alone could fund 4700 cataract operations.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, highlighted that it is vital that the NHS uses its funding well in order to do the best for patients and taxpayers.

“This consultation gives the public the opportunity to help family doctors decide how best to deploy precious NHS resources, freeing-up money from the drugs bill to reinvest in modern treatments for major conditions such as cancer, mental health and emergency care,” he highlighted.

Dr Peter Hampson, clinical director at the AOP, said: “While on the face of it, diverting the costs towards more life-limiting health issues seems sensible, in a developed healthcare economy such as the UK, what is really needed is suitable funding, not a simple redirection of the problem.”

Dr Hampson emphasised the importance of taking a measured approach to prescribing treatments.

“As an example, dry eye, often a chronic condition that is more prevalent in the elderly, can become a significant cost for some of the most vulnerable in our society. There is also a risk that a patient may develop more complex symptoms, which are difficult to treat if the condition is not managed properly from the outset. It is, therefore, important that the potential knock-on effect to individuals is considered in its entirety,” he concluded.