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Self-medication an ‘increasing’ problem among EU doctors

Exclusive There are growing numbers of EU doctors running into problems through self-prescribing drugs such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants, warns RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada.

Dr Gerada is medical director of the Practitioner Health Programme and she told Pulse that EU doctors are used to ‘a culture of self-prescribing' on the continent and needed to be supported to adjust to the different expectations of doctors working in the NHS.

However, Dr Gerada, a GP in Kennington, stressed that the issue was not confined to EU doctors and said ‘every doctor' had to be aware that it is ‘generally not a good idea' to self medicate.

Speaking to Pulse, Dr Gerada said: ‘We are picking up increasing numbers of EU doctors who have been self-prescribing things like benzodiazepines, antidepressants and antibiotics.'

'In a way it is understandable because there is a culture of self-prescribing on the continent that is different to here, for one thing you can buy a lot more drugs over-the-counter in a lot of European countries. We need to help support EU doctors to adjust to the different expectations in the NHS.'

‘If we accept that it's not generally a good idea to self prescribe then I think we need to make every doctor aware of that. It's not that we want to make things difficult it is just that doctors can quickly run into problems if they prescribe mind-altering drugs like antidepressants.'

Last week the GMC published plans recommending that all new doctors, including medical students and those coming to the UK from overseas, now complete an induction programme. The course would involve education on UK medical practice and cultural differences.

Earlier this month Pulse revealed that medical defence bodies were seeing an increase in self-prescribing cases, with GPs who prescribe themselves even non-addictive drugs such as antibiotics increasingly under investigation.

An analysis by the Medical Defence Union of self-prescribing cases – the first such analysis since the GMC issued revised guidance on the issue in 2008 – showed that a growing number of pharmacists and medical colleagues are reporting GPs who self-prescribe to the GMC and PCTs.


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