Norgine has expressed concerns about the inclusion of constipation as a “minor” illness in new NHS England proposals to cut GP prescribing for certain health conditions.
The inclusion of constipation, alongside other conditions such as dandruff, trivialises what can be a very serious condition. The consultation classifies constipation as “infrequent” or “minor”. However, these are not medically recognised classifications and it is suggested that the lack of clarity will only serve to increase the variation that this consultation seeks to address. All chronic and serious constipation begins with what would be described as “infrequent” or “minor”. Similarly, “infrequent” constipation may also be very serious.
BIG faculty member, Anton Emmanuel, Consultant Neuro Gastroenterologist at University College Hospital and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery said:
“Although constipation is a very common condition, it is a very serious one. For those suffering, it can result in serious quality impairments in quality of life and, if inappropriately treated, is associated with significant costs in the form of unplanned admissions to emergency departments. Even in constipation that might be considered “minor” or “infrequent”, there are a wide range of symptoms and every patient is different. Encouraging self-help medication requires caution. Serious health issues often start with minor symptoms. It is essential that patients are encouraged to visit their GPs to discuss their symptoms and to receive the most appropriate advice and treatment.”
He added: “I am very worried that these proposals will actively discourage patients from speaking to their GPs about what is already considered a taboo subject, which will lead to many more cases of severe illness and trips to A&E.”