Exclusive: GP prescription loophole threatens revalidation

Repeated DH failures to update 'archaic' systems for tracking GP prescriptions may hamper revalidation and obstruct work to cut costs, the GPC has warned.

Dr Beeby: the DH's 'persistent failure' to modernise the system has left a 'huge hole' in prescribing accountability
Dr Beeby: the DH's 'persistent failure' to modernise the system has left a 'huge hole' in prescribing accountability

The GPC is 'extremely concerned' that the system used to track primary care prescribing will undermine efforts to improve the quality of prescribing and impede revalidation of sessional GPs.

GPC prescribing lead Dr Bill Beeby, who chaired a GPC meeting on the matter this month, said the 2004 Shipman Report said prescriptions must carry doctors' GMC numbers.

He said the DH's 'persistent failure' to modernise the system since then has left a 'huge hole' in prescribing accountability.

Sessional GPs are unable to access data on their own prescribing because most do not have an individual prescriber number. Many who do obtain one from their PCT cannot add it to practice IT systems.

This means practices cannot audit the prescribing of locums and sessional GPs cannot collect data for revalidation.

System is a mess
Dr Beeby said the system is 'a mess'. 'There's a great big hole in the data. I'm not accusing locums, but there's no way of knowing who is doing what.'

He said the 'simple' answer would be to include GPs' GMC number and a location code on each prescription. 'This doesn't always cover repeat prescriptions, but would greatly improve the problem with providing data for locums.'

A DH spokesman said it was each practice's 'duty' to monitor performance and communicate targets to locums. 'At a national level, the NHS Prescriptions Service can allocate codes for all locums who work within a GP practice, to support appropriate monitoring of prescribing by locums.'

RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said manually adding the GMC number of the doctor signing repeat prescriptions would be 'impossible' for prescribers to organise.

'The idea of carrying a GMC stamp with me is a bureaucratic nightmare,' she said. 'This should be done as a team working together, not as an individual prescriber.'

Dr Beeby insists the problem would cost about £1m to fix, a fraction of the primary care drugs budget, and would improve accountability for all prescribers working across locations. 'Why doesn't the DH want to improve the data?' he asked.

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