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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Do we really want a pill for every ill?

First it was statins, now it is antihypertensives. A new week, a new class of drugs GPs may soon be offering to everyone reaching their 50s.

On top of it all, just a few weeks ago we learned that 10 per cent of the entire population will soon need treatment for stage 3-5 chronic kidney disease, or as the wags would have it, moderate to severe old age.

Pretty soon, the average patient will resemble a bon-bon jar in an old-fashioned sweetshop, or at least would do if there was any indication people will actually be prepared to take all these medicines, which of course there is not.

But a drive to mass-medicate the population will surely herald dramatic changes in the way primary care works.

Only trickiest cases for GPs

It presumably does not require a highly educated doctor to read drug listings off an age chart. Instead, nurse-led clinics could become the main business of general practice, with GPs reserved only for the trickiest of cases.

All of this may well be a thoroughly good thing, and certainly GPs would not want to be barriers to benefits for public health. But such a profound shift in the role of the NHS should not be allowed to happen by stealth.

At the risk of cliché, it is time for a proper national debate on the mass use of preventive medication.

The views of patients and doctors should be heard.

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