England GP practice-level prescribing data published online for first time

Practice-level data on prescribing across all practices in England have been published online, a move the GPC fears could lead to the development of league tables.

Dr Vautrey: the government would need to be careful about how information was used and released.
Dr Vautrey: the government would need to be careful about how information was used and released.

The Information Centre has published September 2011 figures on the number of prescription items that are dispensed each month and information relating to costs.

When plans to publish practice-level prescribing data were announced earlier this month, the GPC said the figures could be used to inappropriately rank practices.

The committee's deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the government would need to be careful about how information was used and released.

'What we want to avoid is league tables developing between different practices,' he said. 'We need to consider the added value that a practice offers to patients, because they may be working from very different starting points.'

A note published by the Information Centre alongside the information, warns ‘prescribing data requires careful interpretation, and the information should not be looked at in isolation’.

The data cover all prescribed and dispensed medicines by chemical name, dressings and appliances. For each GP practice, the total number of items prescribed and dispensed is shown, and the total net ingredient cost and actual cost of these items.

The Information Centre said the data does not list each individual prescription and does not contain any patient identifiable data.

The data are being released as part of the government’s transparency agenda.

Dr Vautrey has pointed out that patient and government views of what makes a good practice may differ. 'In patients' minds, they often quite like practices that are willing to refer, and many patients would like to see more investment in expensive drugs,' he said.

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