A report by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) set out 40 treatments and procedures it says are of little or no benefit to patients.
The colleges have provided new guidance to both clinicians and patients to provide more effective treatment, such as using tap water instead of saline solution to clean cuts.
A study last year found that 82% of doctors said they had prescribed or carried out a treatment which they knew to be unnecessary, the AMRC said, with most blaming patient pressure or expectation.
GP waiting times
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said the advice was ‘a dose of common sense’ at a time when patients in some areas were forced to wait a month to see a GP.
The report, said Dr Baker, showed that many minor ailments and conditions could be treated without needing to see of GP.
- There is no need to routinely check cholesterol levels of patients taking statins at the recommended dose unless there is evidence of pre-existing problems.
- Women with suspected polycystic ovaries should not have imaging before a blood test.
- Frail or dying patients should be asked whether their medications could be reduced to only those used to control symptoms.
Patients are encouraged to ask five questions when seeking treatment:
- Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
- What are the risks or downsides?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What will happen if I do nothing?
AMRC chairwoman Professor Dame Sue Bailey suggested reducing unnecessary or ineffective treatments could help to save the NHS money.
‘We all have a duty to look after resources in healthcare, especially when the NHS is under so much pressure, but that’s not the main motivation for this initiative.
‘What’s much more important is that both doctors and patients really question whether the particular treatment is really necessary. Medicine or surgical interventions don’t need to be the only solution offered by a doctor and more certainly doesn’t always mean better.’
Dr Baker added: ‘As well as demonstrating to patients why going to the GP isn’t always the best course of action, it should also reduce the pressure on GPs to prescribe medications such as antibiotics which might not be needed.
‘Overdiagnosis and overtreatment is harmful to patients. In 2013, the RCGP set up an overdiagnosis group of GPs and patient group representatives to challenge problems facing general practice - such as random screening of the population for very specific diseases - and it now has over 150 active members.
‘Today’s report reinforces the importance of this work and we hope it will be a major step forward in easing the pressures on GP time so that NHS resources are always directed where they can deliver the most benefit for our patients.’