MPs in Northern Ireland have called for UK-wide prescribing targets to be added to the GMS contract, urging the Northern Irish government to begin talks with their Westminister counterparts.
The recommendation forms part of a new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which also suggested Northern Irish GPs were prescribing more expensive drugs than GPs elsewhere in the UK.
The committee acknowledged that GP practices had already achieved some cost savings in the four years since the country’s pharmaceutical budget was devolved from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) to the Health and Social Care (HSC) Board in 2010.
But it suggested Northern Ireland’s prescribing costs could have been reduced by £73m had they been in line with those in Wales in 2013.
The report said: ‘Taking account of local data and information on the prescribing costs of other UK countries, the department, in conjunction with the HSC Board, should undertake an exercise to establish the level of potential savings which more cost effective generic prescribing could generate. This could then be used to set a target prescribing cost for individual GP practices against which to benchmark prescribing performance and to identify areas where further improvement is necessary.’
The report added: ‘As this contract is negotiated on a UK-wide basis, the committee recommends that the department examines, in conjunction with its UK counterparts, how the GMS contract can be strengthened to ensure that GPs improve all aspects of their performance, including prescribing.’
It comes as Pulse revealed last year that CCGs in England were cracking down on GP practices after overspending on their prescribing budgets.
NICE has also recently recommended setting targets on GP prescribing. The body suggested last month that individual GPs should get reports on their antibiotic prescribing levels in a bid to halt developing microbial resistance.