AS the NHS struggles to meet emergency care and diagnosis targets this winter, the TaxPayers' Alliance have revealed that many doctors are prescribing patients with basic items such as gluten-free biscuits, pasta and anti-dandruff shampoo.

Many of these items, which have been prescribed by GPs in England, are already available at supermarkets for people to purchase themselves, often at a much cheaper price. 

Below is an A-Z list of items that were prescribed last year on the NHS. Proposed cheaper (non-branded) alternatives are highlighted, as well as those which can be purchased cheaply over the counter:

• Ambre Solaire (factor 50 sun cream). A non-branded version is available for half the price.

• B12. This vitamin, important for red blood cells, can be purchased for a third of the price of major branded manufacturers.

• Cod liver oil. A 550g portion is available for £1.75, many times cheaper than that offered by a health food shop used for a prescription.

• Digestive biscuits. Branded gluten-free biscuits, which were prescribed, are significantly more expensive than a supermarket equivalent.

• E. The vitamin, helpful for eyesight and the immune system, was purchased from a branded supplier. An exact alternative from a high-street pharmacist is available at a significantly lower cost.

• Fusilli. At least seven different brands of this gluten-free pasta were prescribed, yet a non- branded supermarket alternative is available at considerably lower cost.

• Gaviscon. An alternative, with the same active ingredients, is available for 16 per cent less than that which was prescribed.

• Hay fever relief. A branded version prescribed is significantly more expensive than a common high-street alternative with the same active ingredients.

• Ibuprofen. The non-branded version can be purchased for 30 per cent less than a high-street pharmacist that was used for a prescription (as well as being available over the counter).

• Juvela. This range of gluten-free products features heavily on the list of prescribed products, despite cheaper brands being widely available.

• Ketopine shampoo. A type of anti-dandruff shampoo is available over the counter in most pharmacies.

• Lamberts. This well-known supplement and vitamin company was used regularly for NHS prescriptions. But vitamin D3, for instance, is almost 20 per cent cheaper from other retailers.

• Multivitamins. A non-branded version, with almost the same vitamins, can be purchased for a lot less than one branded version that was prescribed.

• Nicorette. Prescriptions cost £14.00 for 105 pieces of gum, against £12 for the same number of unbranded pieces.

• Omega 3. 60 capsules can be purchased for 12 per cent less than a supplier used by the NHS.

• Pasta. Prescriptions for gluten free pasta were approved and purchased from a specialist retailer. However, a supermarket own brand equivalent retails for almost 5% less.

• Quinoa. A gluten-free version was prescribed.

• Rennie. This indigestion and heartburn medicine can be purchased for 32 per cent less than the branded product prescribed. This has exactly the same active ingredients.

• Selenium. Helpful for the immune system, a non-branded version can be purchased for one third less than a branded product.

• Toothpaste. Colgate Total Advanced was prescribed. Toothpaste can be purchased for a seventh of the cost.

• UltraDEX Oral Rinse. A regular mouth wash, widely available over the counter.

• Vaseline. Pure petroleum jelly used as skin isolation in dry or cold conditions. Non-branded versions are available as well, with prescription necessary.

• Warburtons. This brand’s gluten-free range features heavily on the prescriptions list.

• Xanthan Gum. A specialist ingredient for home-baking gluten-free products.

• Yakult. Prescriptions were issued for this gluten-free drink, which is available at supermarkets

• Zinc. The branded retailer prescribed charges twice the price of an own-brand supermarket version.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "At a time when the NHS is failing to meet basic targets for cancer diagnosis, it can't be right that taxpayers' money is being wasted on basic items that are much cheaper to buy in the supermarket than they are to prescribe.

"The NHS should be cutting out waste where it can and offering value for money, ensuring that precious resources are spent on essential services.

"We know that groundbreaking new drugs are often refused funding, so it's time that the NHS cuts out wasteful spending on everyday items and thinks again about its priorities."