Editorial - DH needs to make prescribing accountable

As the UK parliament heads towards summer recess, there are a number of problems facing the DH and health secretary Andrew Lansley. Not least is the row over pension changes and this week's issue features the actions of practices on 21 June.

This week, GP magazine also highlights at least two different problems facing the coalition government which could be solved relatively simply and with modest investment.

A loophole means prescription pads bear the name of the GP to whom they are issued and the GP's individual prescriber code. However, not all GPs have codes, which means locums and registrars use the pad of the GP principal for whom they are working.

At a time when the DH is trying to meet the £20bn Nicholson Challenge to make savings using Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) and attempts are being made to make it easier for locums to be revalidated, it is common sense to invest the modest sum of £1m to introduce individual codes to make this easier.

Last year, GPs were incentivised through QP1-5 in the QOF to improve prescribing quality value for money. According to NHS Information Centre figures, GPs have been making giant strides, with quarter four spend in 2011/12 falling £30m compared with the same period 12 months earlier. Cost per item prescribed in quarter four 2011/12 also fell 6.2% to £8.64.

Challenge to GPs
The DH has challenged GPs to improve prescribing efficiency and quality. Latest figures show they are doing all they can to raise their game.

Closing the loophole highlighted by GP magazine should be a recommendation familiar to Mr Lansley because it was contained in the Shipman Inquiry's Fourth Report.

Making GPs and locums more accountable for their prescribing should also help everyone striving to improve the quality of service they are providing for patients.

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