GPs alerted 5 million times last year to combat over-prescription

New analysis of how practices in two-thirds of England’s CCGs use a prescribing decision support technology, conducted between April 2018 and March 2019, has found that thousands of professionals had been acting on the alerts, helping prescribers to comply with self-care prescribing guidelines from NHS England. The analysis reveals that 5 million alerts were sent to prescribers over the period, resulting in projected avoided costs to the NHS of over £10 million.

The guidance, published in April 2018, recommends that practices should promote self-care when appropriate to reduce costs, discouraging prescriptions for medications such as vitamin and mineral supplements, antifungal treatments, and laxatives for minor illnesses.

The news follows the finding last year that GPs across the country had saved at least £100m by responding to alerts to prescribe alternative and lower cost medicines for patients.

OptimiseRx, the technology involved, presents NHS prescribing guidance and alerts GPs, at the point of prescribing, in their existing clinical IT system when over counter medicines should not be routinely prescribed, and where self-care is more appropriate. This has traditionally been used to help GPs make decisions that comply with local and national prescribing priorities, Including; alerting doctors when more cost-effective alternatives are available, and by providing patient-specific prescribing recommendations based on the patient’s record.

NHS England’s 2018 guidance has looked to reduce the use of medications with limited clinical evidence, such as probiotics. It also highlighted NHS England-funded medicines that should be referred to secondary care, for conditions including cancer and cystic fibrosis, which are not to be prescribed in primary care.