Emollients in Schools

Lots of us are getting eczema from the incessant application of alcohol gel and soap we now have to endure. Both break down the natural oils in the skin causing it to dry out, get flaky, crack, itch and, if nothing is done, causing fissures and risking nasty infection.

But hey! Whilst life is difficult for us all some are determined to make it a bit worse. As the world is facing meltdown from the economic and mental-ill health effects of COVID-19 some schools are making life worse for themselves and their charges by declaring any child who needs to use an emollient for eczema must have it prescribed! That is, a doctor must sanction it’s use! For God’s sake!

An emollient is just another word for a moisturiser that I think every adult has used at one time or another, even if amongst tough blokes, it was only to sooth sunburn or when pretending to like massaging their partner whilst really hoping it leads to a shag. So let’s be clear: No-one needs their doctor’s permission to use a moisturiser or an emollient. Even young children can be taught to self-apply the stuff quite easily. Are there any women in the country who have not had it as part of their daily routine for much of their lives? The preventative or treatment use of emollients should be encouraged and there should be no hindrance to that, such as requiring a doctor to get involved.

That schools, in some parts of the country, have been requiring doctors to confirm by prescribing the need for children to use emollients for their sore hands is beggar’s belief.

Why would one (underfunded) public service saddle another (underfunded) public service with more cost is beyond me, though it happens repeatedly. Not only does such an insistence cause great inconvenience to parents and an inevitable delay in the kids getting something on their hands it dumps on the NHS the cost of a consultation with their GP or nurse practitioner, the cost of the emollient itself and the cost of a pharmacist dispensing it. Free all this may be, at the point of delivery i.e. to the child, but free, it is not. Every tax payer has to shell out, not to mention the parents in lost time and hassle. There is a real lost opportunity cost here because every time NHS staff time are used that time can’t be used doing something more helpful to preserve or treat the health of their patients. They could, for example, be phoning patients who have missed their cancer screening and trying to persuade them to have it, or supporting patients with poor control of their diabetes, or their drinking. But opportunities like this are lost when the clock ticks by doing something else. Remember we are at least 5,000 GPs short in England alone. You do know the quality of care in the UK, isn’t what it could be, don’t you?

If the NHS wasn’t spending around £47 million annually[i] on moisturizers prescription perhaps it could have coped better with the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps it might be able to recover services faster afterwards. Let’s remember all emollients can be bought without a prescription and I suggest if you can afford a car to take your cherubs to school you should buy your emollients yourself and the school should not need a GP to sanction your duty as a caring parent.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet then I’ll happily ensure your cherubs do get some emollient by putting it on prescription. The last thing I want is a child to suffer because their parents can’t afford to pay, what are sometimes outrageous mark ups on retail prices. If it helps here’s a CCG’s table of most cost-effective products. These are NHS prices so you can work out what the retail mark-up is when you shop. If your local pharmacy can’t be competitive go elsewhere, online if necessary though ensure it’s a reputable site. Just because your child might get free prescriptions don’t abuse the NHS if you don’t need to. You want it to be good when you really need it don’t you? You do? Well be a good citizen and don’t undermine it before that time comes. Ten years of austerity in the NHS have done that for you already, and the debt the country now bears is unlikely to mean the service is going to be ace anytime soon.

Luckily for some, CCG pharmacists have worked with the local authorities who have now advised schools that emollients do not need to be prescribed and should not be regarded as medicines. If you need support with such issues there are links here for parents and schools.

We still have to solve the problem of schools not being able to administer paracetamol to kids. Meanwhile the poor little buggers continue to burn up and feel shit until their parent or carer can get away from work, get to school, get them home and get some paracetamol in them. My God, when did we become such an uncaring society?


[i] https://openprescribing.net/analyse/#org=regional_team&numIds=21.22&denom=nothing&selectedTab=summary

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