Prescribing over-the-counter medicines in nurseries and schools

GPs are often asked to prescribe over-the-counter medication to satisfy nurseries and schools. This is a misuse of GP time, and is not necessary.

Location: UK
Audience: Practice managers GPs Patients and public
Updated: Monday 16 October 2023
GP practice article illustration

​Non-prescription or over-the-counter medication does not need a GP signature or authorisation in order for a school, nursery or childminder to give it.


Clarification on prescription medicines

The Government’s early years foundation stage statutory framework, which governs the standards of institutions looking after children, used to include the paragraph: ‘Medicines should only be taken to a setting when this is essential and settings should only accept medicines that have been prescribed by a doctor, dentist, nurse or pharmacist.’

This resulted in some parents making unnecessary appointments to seek a prescription for a non-prescription medicine so that it could be taken in nurseries or schools.

It has now been amended to refer to ‘prescription medicines’. The Department for Education has confirmed to the BMA that an FP10 is not required and non-prescription medication can be administered where parents have given written consent.


Unnecessary GP appointments

It is a misuse of GP time to take up an appointment to get a prescription just to satisfy the needs of a nursery or school.

The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) licenses medicines and classifies them as over-the-counter, based on their safety profiles. This is to enable access to those medicines without a GP. The classification also applies in the educational setting.

If your practice is asked to prescribe over-the-counter medicines, Wessex LMC has produced a template letter which can be sent to the nursery or school.


Giving medicines to children

It is appropriate for over-the-counter medicines to be administered by a member of staff in the nursery or school, or self-administered by the pupil during school hours, following written permission by the parents.

The early years foundation stage statutory framework outlines the policy for administering medicines to children aged up to five in nurseries, pre-schools and playgroups.