Medicines in Schools: Over the Counter Medicines

Medicines in Schools

In March of this year, NHS England published guidance which is designed to free up almost £100 million by curbing prescriptions for certain ‘over the counter’ (OTC) medicines relating to minor, short-term conditions that are for:


  • “A self-limiting condition, which does not require any medical advice or treatment as it will clear up on its own, such as sore throats, coughs and colds
  • A condition that is suitable for self-care, which can be treated with items that can easily be purchased over the counter from a pharmacy, such as indigestion, mouth ulcers and warts and verrucae.


See the full list of conditions below.

With this change in approach by the NHS will come an inevitable alteration in the way schools handle medicines for their pupils i.e. in schools where parents were formerly required to provide either a prescription or GP authorisation for any OTC medicines, prior to the school administering them. This will now change.

Parental consent will be the required authorisation for OTC medicines to be administered to a pupil.

Medicines in Schools
We have developed these FREE downloadable resources to help your school:

What Does the Guidance Say?

The Supporting Pupils Guidance issued by the Department for Education in December 2015 sets out the position in relation to pupils and their medicines including the following important points:

  1. Children should be responsible for their own medicines wherever possible (paragraph 33 of the guidance)
  2. Except in exceptional circumstances, a pupil’s parent’s consent should be obtained when given prescription or non-prescription medicines (paragraph 35 of the guidance)
  3. Prescribed medicines (this does not apply to OTC medicines) should only be accepted where they are:
    1. In date;
    2. Labelled;
    3. In their original container; and
    4. Accompanied by instructions for administration, dosage and storage (paragraph 35 of the guidance)

The Supporting Pupils Guidance is in line with the new NHS approach of encouraging self-medication and independence with medicines, within certain parameters. Schools should ensure consent is obtained from a parent of the pupil requiring the medication but independent  medication management should be promoted, as far as possible, where appropriate.

What Should You Do?

Schools need to be sure that they are able to fully support pupils with their medicines. This can be achieved in a number of ways:

  1. Ensure you have properly trained staff who know how to handle and administer medicines
  2. Ensure the school has a clear, concise policy and procedures documenting the processes to be followed in relation to medicines
  3. Competency assess staff to ensure they understand how to put their training into practice.
  4. Ensure you have parental consents in place for all OTC medicines (and prescribed medicines) which are brought into school

Check out our FREE schools competency assessment today


Conditions affected by the NHS prescription change:

  • Acute sore throat
  • Infrequent cold sores of the lip
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Coughs and colds and nasal congestion
  • Cradle Cap (seborrhoeic dermatitis – infants)
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Infant colic
  • Mild cystitis
  • Mild irritant dermatitis
  • Dandruff
  • Diarrhoea (adults)
  • Dry eyes/sore (tired) eyes
  • Earwax
  • Excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
  • Head lice
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Infrequent constipation
  • Infrequent migraine
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Mild acne
  • Mild dry skin
  • Sunburn
  • Sun protection
  • Mild to moderate hay fever/seasonal rhinitis
  • Minor burns and scalds
  • Minor conditions associated with pain, discomfort and/fever. (e.g. aches and sprains, headache, period pain, back pain)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Nappy rash
  • Oral thrush
  • Prevention of dental caries
  • Ringworm/athlete's foot
  • Teething/mild toothache

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