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Prescribing ‘core skill’ of GPs and most medicines ‘necessary’, says RCGP

prescribing GPs

The RCGP has responded to a claim that GPs are prescribing ‘a pill for every ill’, arguing that most prescriptions are ‘necessary’.

An article published by the Mail last week claimed NHS bosses had said GPs must stop overprescribing pills.

It said ‘many patients’ were ‘taking an unnecessary cocktail of drugs that risk harmful side-effects and waste millions of pounds’, with NHS medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis urging patients to get their prescriptions reviewed.

Professor Powis did tell the NHS Confed Expo conference in Liverpool: ‘The approach of “a pill for every ill” should never be a starting point. Reducing unnecessary prescriptions is more important than ever. 

‘The NHS is rolling out expert pharmacy teams who can give advice to patients.’

However, in response, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘Prescribing is a core skill for GPs and is a key part of our training.’

While the RCGP ‘would agree that where safe and possible, particularly if patients are taking multiple medications, reducing prescribing in the long-term is a good aspiration’, ‘sometimes long-term medication is necessary’.

‘When developing a treatment plan, GPs will take into account a patient’s individual health needs and medical history, as well as clinical guidance – and we will consider the various treatment options, including alternatives to drug therapies, in conversation with the patient about the risks and benefits of each.’

And ‘in most cases, where prescriptions have been made, they are necessary, appropriate and of benefit for the patient’, Professor Marshall concluded.

Ministers last year pledged to ‘take action’ on overprescribing after an official review concluded that 10% of medicines dispensed in primary care in England were not needed.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said this would include GP practice training and moves to alternative treatment options including social prescribing.


Patrufini Duffy 22 June, 2022 5:17 pm

NICE loves medicines.
Americans love medicines.
Shareholders love medicines.
Pharmacists love medicines.
Marketing and sponsors love medicines.
High-streets love medicines.
Internet loves medicines.
Patient wants medicines.

GPs fault.

Rogue 1 23 June, 2022 10:06 am

Quite right PD, but doesn’t make a good headline.

Dylan Summers 23 June, 2022 12:33 pm

I also think we tend to overprescribe but this is not on our own initiative – it’s the widespread use of guidelines which always err on the side of intervention