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Computer tool flags up drug clashes across practice lists

A free computer download alerting GPs to prescribing contraindications across the whole practice patient population will be launched in the new year.

The tool will allows GPs to cross-reference known contraindications - such as asthma and betablockers - across the whole patient database automatically, rather than on an individual basis.

It will also allow practice staff to check whether all the patients on certain medications have had their recommended timely review.

The software has been developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham with PRIMIS Primary Care Information Services,and is based on findings from the Department of Health-funded PINCER study.

The PINCER trial, published online by The Lancet in February, compared the effect of introducing pharmacists into practices to analyse prescribing errors, agree action plans and review patients, with simple computerised feedback on patient records.

Researchers found a 29% reduction at six months in the risk of prescribing errors in the pharmacist intervention group, compared with those in the computerised feedback group, and also reported a 44% reduction in monitoring errors.

The researchers behind the new software tool recommend GPs should involve practice pharmacists in using it in line with the PINCER findings.

Professor Tony Avery, professor of primary healthcare at the University of Nottingham and a GP in the city, said: ‘It takes the effort out for GPs having to do their own searches. Ideally, all practices within a certain PCO area will use the tool meaning everybody follows the same practise.

He said the tool would also be made available to CCGs which could allow them to examine‘anonymised data for monitoring safe prescribing across their commissioning areas.’