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Prescribing costs to soar as GPs strive for quality points

By Cato Pedder

GP prescribing costs will soar by 12 per cent in the first year of the new contract as practices strive to meet quality and outcome targets.

The Department of Health revealed it has told PCTs to budget for a 12 per cent increase in prescribing costs as a new Government report obtained by Pulse predicted a possible 5.6 per cent increase in prescribing costs specifically attributable to quality targets.

The report, from the department's Prescribing Support Unit, predicted quality targets for chronic disease would boost prescribing costs by up to £344.2 million in England ­ with spending on lipid lowering alone set to rise by more than £250 million.

The predictions came with a strong warning that the figures could seriously underestimate the true cost impact of the quality framework.

Assumptions about numbers of patients and costs of treatment may be too low and the sample of practices anal-ysed was 'probably untypical', the report said.

The analysis looked at the potential national impact on prescribing of quality targets in 124 practices. With an annual prescribing spend in 2002/3 of around £6.77 billion, national prescribing costs would rise by 5.56 per cent if GPs scored maximum quality points and by 2.2 per cent if GPs scored midway, it said.

Dr George Rae, chair of the BMA's annual representative body and a GP in Whitley Bay, said it would be tough for GPs to absorb the extra cost.

He added: 'It's a huge area of concern for PCOs in the next year.'

How framework will hit prescribing bill

Total increase £344,205,046

Cholesterol reducing drugs £257,121,238

Influenza vaccination £43,896,372

Nicotine replacement therapy £32,368,531

Anti-platelet therapies for coronary heart disease £14,845,680

Source: National prescribing cost implications of the new GMS contract. PSU. January 2004

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