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Finding it difficult to get emollients on prescription?

Many people with eczema are finding it difficult to get their preferred emollient – or, in some cases, any emollient – on prescription.

Why is this?

GPs are advised, where possible, to prescribe the emollient with the ‘lowest acquisition’ cost from the range of emollients listed in their local formulary. A ‘formulary’ is the list of medicines and other treatments that are available on NHS prescription in a particular area. Formularies vary widely.

Sometimes a patient’s prescription is automatically switched to another treatment, usually to a cheaper alternative. This cheaper alternative should be comparable with or better than the original, but sometimes it’s not. This is known as ‘script switching’.

In the case of bath emollients, now that the CCG guidance on items which should not routinely be prescribed has been updated to include bath and shower emollient preparations (p. 16), it is unlikely that you will be able to get bath and shower emollient preparations on prescription, unfortunately.

What can I do about it?

You should still be able to get sufficient quantities of leave-on emollient on prescription to treat your eczema effectively, even if it’s not your preferred brand. If you’ve been refused emollient on prescription altogether, or the alternative you’ve been prescribed isn’t working well for you, or you haven’t been prescribed enough, please download and print out our information sheet, and show it to your GP or pharmacist.

The NHS England Clinical Working Group that was responsible for the development of the CCG prescribing guidance on OTC medicines has confirmed that:

  • It did not intend for this guidance to be a blanket ban on the prescribing of emollients.
  • People should still be able to receive emollients on prescription for long-term skin conditions like eczema.
  • The prescribing guidance applies only to people with mild dry skin.
  • The guidance does not prevent GPs from prescribing emollients based on clinical need, in accordance with their professional duties.

If you’ve been prescribed an emollient that doesn’t work effectively for you for washing purposes, please download and print out our information sheet on wash products, and show it to your GP or pharmacist.

You can also write to your MP

To find your MP and send them an e-mail, please visit this website, where you can type in your postcode, click on the MP and fill out all the details. For suggestions as to what to include in the message, please download our template letter to an MP.

MPs can not only attempt locally and confidentially to address your individual issue by writing or speaking to the local health agencies and commissioners, but they can also seek to influence national policy by raising the broader issue within Parliament. This includes asking parliamentary questions, writing to the Department of Health and Social Care, leading a debate or meeting Ministers.