GPs 'unlikely' to achieve further efficiency savings on drug costs

Practices may have reached the limit of efficiency savings they can make on prescribing costs, senior GPs have warned, after official figures showed spending rose less than an average 1% a year since 2010/11.

GPC prescribing subcommittee chair Dr Andrew Green
GPC prescribing subcommittee chair Dr Andrew Green

GPs have made ‘enormous strides’ to cut down on prescribing costs and it is unlikely they will be able to make further significant efficiency savings GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee chair Dr Andrew Green has warned.

It comes after an NHS Digital report found that the cost of medicines dispensed in primary care has increased by just 4.6% over the last five years – compared to an 82% rise over the same period for hospitals.

The Prescribing Costs in Hospitals and the Community report showed that the proportion of the overall spend incurred by general practice has dropped as a result, falling from two thirds (68%) to around half (55%).

GP prescribing

But GP leaders said this did not tell the whole story of GPs’ efforts to cut spending – as many hospitals are pushing high-cost prescribing onto general practice, by initiating treatments and then expecting primary care to pick up the bill.

Dr Green said: ‘General practice has made enormous strides, and it is unlikely that there will be further significant savings to be made.

‘Don’t forget that many areas of high-cost prescribing initiated in hospital are exported to us, so the improvement in prescribing that we are actually responsible for are in reality much more significant.’

A total of £16.8bn was spent on medicines in 2015/16, of which £9bn was incurred by general practice.

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