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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Rawlins is way off the mark in criticising GP script errors

After 36 years in general practice I am not aware of having had a single patient admitted to hospital because of a prescribing error, nor am I aware that any of the partners with whom I practised did not share my experience.

It is profoundly disturbing when Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, the head of NICE, suggests most GPs lack basic prescribing skills (News, December 8) without the most rigorous checking of the facts.

I think most experienced GPs will share my views, which leads me to wonder what advantage may accrue to Sir Michael from his remarkable accusation. They are certainly not in the public interest.

Dr CO Lister

Swindon

Wiltshire

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As an experienced GP who is currently doing a part-time diploma in therapeutics at the University of Newcastle I would like refute Professor Rawlins's claims that we often make mistakes on prescriptions.

In our practice we have a robust system for both acute and repeat prescribing. It is rare for us to be contacted by local pharmacies with concerns. The current funding situation means we have four hours of pharmacist time attached to the practice each week.

This is much better spent testing patients for Helicobacter pylori, seeing elderly patients with multiple medications for review and helping us maintain high standards with audit.

Dr Patricia Bragg

Winlaton

Tyne and Weir

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What an ignorant, misguided comment from Professor Rawlins. Last week I had to spend time each day unpicking the cock-ups that local consultants had made with their prescribing for my patients.

One patient on pravastatin was told to take simvastatin as well. Another with chest pain (diagnosed non-cardiac aged 36) was put on atorvastatin 20mg with normal fasting lipids and no family history.

The most frequent problem is a specialist in an 'ology' prescribing withdrawn antique medication when seeing a patient with a problem out of their specialty. Point the finger of blame where it is most needed and get off our backs. No wonder the NHS is about to give way under the pressure.

Dr Stephen Fox

Leigh

Lancashire

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My view is we can prescribe safely but that it is time we recognised we cannot control all repeat prescribing even to our own standards of excellence and that it is time to allow others with more time and the expertise to assist us in the process.

This is not a 'shame on the profession', it is only a sensible response to the day-to-day practicalities of providing a service in an overstretched environment.

And it is about being realistic about the fact that to achieve the levels of care we aspire to for our patients requires innovative thinking and new approaches and a look at skill mix and the best use of that scarce resource ­ doctor time.

Dr Simon Andrews

Aughton

Nr Ormskirk

Lancashire

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