Hospital drug costs up 18 times faster than primary care since 2010/11

Hospital spending on medicines has almost doubled since 2010/11 while primary care prescribing costs have remained flat, official data show.

The cost of medicines dispensed in primary care has increased by just 4.6% over the past five years to £9bn in 2015/16, the Prescribing Costs in Hospitals and the Community report shows.

Over the same period, spending on medicines in hospitals increased almost 18 times faster, rising 82% to £7.6bn.

The report, released on Tuesday by NHS Digital, shows total NHS expenditure on medicines stood at £16.8bn in 2015/16, a rise of 8% on the year before and almost a third (29%) higher than in 2010/11.

It compares expenditure between primary and secondary care in total and for medicines approved by NICE.

NHS prescribing

Spending per patient ranged from £348.78 in the top spending NHS England region, Cumbria & North East, to over £100 less in the Central Midlands, which spent £242.20 per patient.

Hospital spending now accounts for almost half (45%) of the overall NHS spend on prescriptions, compared to 32% in 2010/11.

The significant increase in hospital spending was largely driven by the introduction of ‘new and innovative medicines’ in addition to ‘greater use of specialist medicines’, the report said.

Findings from a GPonline survey earlier this year suggest that hospital prescribing costs would be rising even faster if they followed the terms of their NHS contracts in full. Hospitals are required to provide medication to patients who need it after inpatient or daycase care, but 84% of GPs say local hospitals sometimes expect them to prescribe this.

Around one in nine GPs said that hospitals they deal with comply less than half of the time with a requirement to ensure that patients they discharge who need medication after a procedure have enough to last seven days.

GPonline reported last year that in the 2014/15 financial year alone, hospital prescribing costs rose four times faster than primary care prescribing costs.

Photo: JH Lancy

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Vaccination tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK have led the largest-ever NHS vaccination programme in response...

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall

Hand PCNs control of primary care infrastructure funding, says RCGP

CCG funding for primary care infrastructure should be handed to PCNs when the bodies...

Professor Martin Marshall and Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall

Talking General Practice speaks to RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul

In-house review not enough to stop 'unjust' GMC referrals, warns BMA

Doctors' leaders have repeated calls for a full independent review of the GMC referral...


How widespread is long COVID in the UK?

Millions of people in the UK are living with long COVID. GPonline looks at the data...

COVID-19 vaccination sign

GP contract for autumn COVID-19 booster campaign due shortly

GP practices in England will be invited shortly to sign up for the COVID-19 autumn...