A new report has warned that many patients in England are being prescribed unnecessary medicines, which could even be a threat to their health. The review led by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, Dr Keith Ridge CBE, found that around 10% of items dispensed in primary care are overprescribed.
The BBC reports that almost 15% of people take five or more medicines a day, when they could be taking a more effective alternative. Repeat prescriptions often contain medicines which are no longer needed or appropriate for the patient concerned, but this is not picked up by GPs or pharmacists.
Dr Ridge commented: “Medicines do people a lot of good and the practical measures set out in this report will help clinicians ensure people are getting the right type and amount of medication, which is better for patients and also benefits taxpayers, by preventing unnecessary spending on prescriptions.”
Dr Ridge acknowledged the expertise of NHS medical staff, and pointed out that overprescribing was a global issue. The review has recommended that a new National Clinical Director for Prescribing, or as the BBC put it, a ‘Prescribing Tsar’, should be introduced to lead research and training into the issue.
It also calls for an overhaul of the patient record and handover procedures so they are consistent and conform to established best practice. There should be more effective guidelines for withdrawing inappropriate prescriptions, including giving GPs the power to challenge prescriptions made in hospitals.
The review also highlights the environmental benefits of reducing waste within the healthcare system. The manufacturing and transport of medicines is thought to account for around 25% of the sector’s carbon footprint, so cutting down on unneeded medication will help the NHS achieve its carbon net zero target.
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