Review into overprescribing aims to give GPs power to challenge hospital scrips

A government review of overprescribing in the NHS could see GPs given more power to challenge hospital prescriptions.


The DHSC said the review, which will focus mainly on patients who take multiple medicines, will aim to create ‘a more efficient handover between primary and secondary care… Ensuring GPs have the data they need and feel able to challenge and change prescribing made in hospitals’.

GPC prescribing lead Dr Andrew Green welcomed the review, saying: ‘GPs must realise that when we prescribe on the advice of hospital colleagues we take on responsibility for that treatment. As such, questioning whether recommendations are appropriate is an essential part of our role.

‘We have an absolute right to decline to take on prescribing where we feel either that the prescription is inappropriate or that we do not have the experience to take on that clinical responsibility.’


The review, which is being led by chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge, will also look at ways to improve the management of non-reviewed repeat prescriptions and consider how new digital systems can assist primary care providers to create ‘better personalised care’ for patients.

In addition, GPs are being encouraged to focus on prevention by promoting non-medical forms of care such as social prescribing.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘GPs do not want patients to be taking drugs that are of little or no value to their health, and if patients are taking medication unnecessarily, it is important that this is addressed.’

It is estimated that total NHS spending on medicines in England has grown from £13bn in 2010/11 to £18.2bn in 2017/18 - representing an average annual growth of 5%.

‘The RCGP has a group dedicated to tackling the issues of over medicalisation and over prescribing, as we are acutely aware this is significant risk in an environment where we have an abundance of well-intentioned guidelines,’ Professor Stokes-Lampard added.

‘Prescribing safely and appropriately is a core skill for GPs, and we are highly trained to consider the physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on the health of individual patients – in conversation with them – when making a decision to prescribe.


It is unclear when the review will start, however health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said addressing overprescribing will be an important part of DHSC’s prevention strategy.

Mr Hancock said: ‘As we invest an extra £20.5bn a year into our NHS we want to empower doctors and pharmacists to use the data available to ensure patients get the medicines they need and stop taking those that no longer benefit them.

‘We also need to back our GPs to move towards alternatives such as social prescribing, so we can offer more tailored healthcare that focuses on prevention to stop people from becoming ill in the first place – improving care and reducing the burden on the NHS.’

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