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Over the Counter (OTC) Medicines for Children

In March 2018, NHS England published guidance about reducing the prescribing of medicines or treatments that are available to buy over the counter.

This guidance has been adopted by our local clinical commissioning groups in east Kent: Ashford, Canterbury and Coastal, South Kent Coast and Thanet.

This means that certain medicines may no longer be prescribed if you can buy them ‘over the counter’ (OTC) in shops and pharmacies. GPs would not normally prescribe simple OTC medications for any patient, including children, and a doctor’s prescription should not therefore be required before administering such medicines to a child. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) licenses all medicines and classifies them as OTC when it considers it safe and appropriate that they may be used without a prescription.

It is therefore appropriate for OTC medicines to be administered by staff when authorised by parents, when parents consider it necessary. This may be by staff in a home or nursery or school environment.

In light of this we are writing to ask you to kindly review your policy for administration of medicine within your establishment to ensure that it is up to date, reflecting that a prescription is not required for administration of medicine to children that can be bought OTC.

Links and excerpts to guidance documents that support this message may be found below. We hope that this information is useful to you and will assist in ensuring that your school policy is fully up to date and reflects the best practice that the four east Kent Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and Kent County Council would like to promote.

Dr Navin Kumta
Clinical Chair NHS Ashford CCG
Chair East Kent Clinical Assurance
and Strategy Committee

   Andrew Scott-Clark
Director of Public Health
Kent County Council


The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage - 3 April 2017.

This document identifies current national standards for day care and childminding from birth to five, where non-prescription medication (OTC medicines) can be administered if the parent has given prior written consent for the administration of any medication. It states (page 27):

Prescription medicines must not be administered unless they have been prescribed for a child by a doctor, dentist, nurse or pharmacist (medicines containing aspirin should only be given if prescribed by a doctor).

Medicine (both prescription and non-prescription) must only be administered to a child where written permission for that particular medicine has been obtained from the child’s parent and/or carer. Providers must keep a written record each time a medicine is administered to a child, and inform the child’s parents and/or carers on the same day, or as soon as reasonably practicable.

The Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions - December 2015 statutory guidance for governing bodies of maintained schools and proprietors of academies in England:

No child under 16 should be given prescription or non-prescription medicines without their parent’s written consent - except in exceptional circumstances where the medicine has been prescribed to the child without the knowledge of the parents. In such cases, every effort should be made to encourage the child or young person to involve their parents while respecting their right to confidentiality. Schools should set out the circumstances in which non-prescription medicines may be administered.

A child under 16 should never be given medicine containing aspirin unless prescribed by a doctor. Medication, e.g. for pain relief, should never be administered without first checking maximum dosages and when the previous dose was taken. Parents should be informed.