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Brine denies blacklisting headlice prescriptions is causing 'epidemic'

Pharmacy minister Steve Brine has denied that NHS England’s blacklisting of headlice treatments on prescriptions is leading to an “epidemic” in schools.

In March, NHS England published guidance advising GPs to “curb prescribing” for 35 conditions (see the full list here) including headlice – which the commissioner argued is “a minor illness and suitable for self care and treatment with items that can easily be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy”.

In a parliamentary debate yesterday (November 27), Emma Hardy – Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle – told Mr Brine that she had “met people from the charity Community Hygiene Concern, which provides cheap, reusable and effective bug-busting kits for less than £5”.

Ms Hardy said: “However, because of NHS prescription guidance changes, these kits are no longer available, which threatens an epidemic of headlice in our schools.”

“Surely headlice should not be considered a minor ailment?” asked Ms Hardy, who also called upon the minister to write to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and “encourage him to meet me and Community Hygiene Concern to look at this issue again”.

Mr Brine responded that he does “not believe there is an epidemic because of NHS England’s actions”.

“Clinical experts in the NHS advise that headlice can be safely and effectively treated by wet combing,” said Mr Brine, who referred to his “very recent, personal experience of doing this” with his own children.

“Chemical treatment is recommended only in exceptional circumstances,” he stressed.

However, Mr Brine agreed to “facilitate” the meeting between Ms Hardy, Community Hygiene Concern and Mr Stevens.

C+D has published advice on how pharmacy teams in England can communicate with patients confused by the restrictions in headlice treatment prescribing.

Has your pharmacy experienced a rise in patients asking about headlice?

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