Lincolnshire hay fever patients asked to think twice before asking GP for antihistamines

Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is asking hay fever patients to think twice before asking their GP for antihistamines, as it is revealed that almost £200,000 is spent on the drugs each year across Lincolnshire.

Hay fever

Every year the number of allergy sufferers increases by five percent with half of those affected being children, and in total an estimated 21 million people in the UK suffer from some kind of allergic condition.

Hay fever is considered the most common allergy, affecting one in four of the UK population.

Dr James Howarth, GP at Spilsby Surgery and Deputy Chair of Lincolnshire East CCG, said: “An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it is a threat, like an infection. It produces antibodies to fight off the allergen, in a reaction called the immune response.

“At this time of year, many people start to be affected by allergies due to larger quantities of airborne grass pollen, suffering from symptoms, such as sneezing, runny, blocked or stuffy nose, itchy eyes and post-nasal drip.

“However, some people are allergic to other types of pollen, such as tree or weed pollen, and may be affected at different times of the year.

“Every time a doctor writes a prescription, the NHS incurs additional charges through dispensing and administrative fees – and if GP time is also included the cost rises even higher.

“Providing even small quantities of antihistamines on prescription is not an effective use of NHS funds.”

Dr Howarth added: “Every home should have a medicines cabinet, adequately stocked with low-cost generic treatments that can be used for the short-term relief of common conditions.

“Antihistamines can be bought from a shop or pharmacy for far less than the price the NHS pays when providing them on prescription. For that reason, we’re asking people to make this choice.”

• Anyone who is feeling unwell with the symptoms of hay fever should in the first instance visit their pharmacist, who can offer advice on medication that is available over the counter to relieve the symptoms associated with the condition.