Hospital prescribing costs rising four times faster than primary care

Hospital prescribing costs rose over four times as fast as primary care costs over the last financial year, official data show, as GP leaders hailed 'great work' by the profession in medicines management.

Primary care prescription costs are rising at a much slower rate than hospital costs, according to the Prescribing Costs in Hospitals and the Community 2014/15 report released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) on Thursday.

Primary care spending on prescriptions rose 3% to £8.7bn last year, while hospital spending rose 13% to £6.7bn. Overall, NHS expenditure on medicines rose by 8% to £15.5bn.

Although absolute costs for primary drugs rose in 2014/15, the proportion of overall prescription costs spent in primary care fell from 59% to 56% of the overall spend.

This is due to a continuing trend of hospital medicine costs ‘rising at a greater rate’ than those in primary care, the report said. Hospital spending jumped from 40% to 43% of the overall prescribing spend during this time.

GP prescriptions

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMC, said the small primary care increase was testament to GPs' hard work in the face of pressures to drive up prescribing such as an ageing population, expensive new drugs and a rise in multiple long-term conditions.

‘In terms of general practice I think a 3% gross increase shows a lot of really great work done by GPs in medicines management to keep the costs down,’ he said.

‘I think it is always quite hard to give a direct comparison [between primary and hospital care], because quite a lot of the new expensive drugs will be used in hospitals. I also think that in the past there's been quite a lot of cost shifting from hospitals to general practice, but over the last year or two general practice has been much firmer about taking on drugs only once they're established, and not just accepting the cost shifting.’

Four years ago in 2010/11, primary care prescribing costs stood £100m lower at £8.6bn, while hospital prescribing spending has increased by £2.6bn from £4.1bn to £6.7bn.

Area team spending in primary care ranged from £124 per patient in London to £203 in Merseyside.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Close up of hand holding sample tube with 'Omicron' handwritten on side

Government urged to 'free up' GP practices and expand steps to control Omicron

GPs have called for immediate action such as suspension of QOF to allow practices...

(Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

Coronavirus: Key guidance GPs need to know about COVID-19

GPonline provides an overview of the key guidance relating to coronavirus, including...

External wall of GP surgery with wording 'medical centre'

‘Utterly toxic’: GPs speak out over abuse and physical attacks on practice teams

GPs have condemned a rise in verbal and physical attacks on practice staff - warning...

Artist's image of a spiked virus

Javid warns of 'substantial risk' from new COVID-19 variant

The highly mutated COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 'may pose a significant risk to public...

Desk with lettering 'LMC conference'

LMCs reject 'outdated' GMS contract and demand move to item of service payments

LMCs have voted to scrap the 'outdated and inadequate' GMS contract and to replace...

GPs at an LMC conference waving green voting cards in the air

LMCs demand ringfence on enhanced services cash and clear GP representation in ICSs

LMCs have called for a ringfence on enhanced services funding, along with a guarantee...