GP leaders criticise plans to publish prescribing data

Government plans to publish practice level prescribing data could lead to unfair pressure on GPs' prescribing decisions, the GPC has warned.

Dr Vautrey: publishing prescribing data at a practice level must be handled carefully
Dr Vautrey: publishing prescribing data at a practice level must be handled carefully

In its Plan for Growth the government said would it look to publish prescribing data at practice level, but this would be subject to an evaluation and impact assessment by the NHS Information Centre.

The NHS Information Centre confirmed it would carry out the work, describing the move as part of the wider agenda to increase transparency in the NHS.

But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said publishing prescribing data at a practice level must be handled carefully.

‘When one person looks at the prescribing data they may make a judgment that the practice is prescribing cost effectively and appropriately,' he said.

‘But another person may ask why a practice isn’t prescribing the most expensive, new drugs around and if patients are getting drugs they want.’

He also said the information must be put in the context of the patient demographic of local populations. 'A population with a large number of diabetics will have a very different prescribing profile to a predominantly student population,’ he said. 

RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada also warned that publishing the data could breach patient confidentiality.

She said: ‘It is identifiable, certainly with very rare medication, and it is meaningless unless you understand the context it’s made in.’

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