Review launched into overprescribing in the NHS

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Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has ordered a review that will focus on patients who take multiple medicines, to ensure they are receiving the most appropriate treatment for their needs.

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Dr Keith Ridge will lead the review, which will focus on addressing “problematic polypharmacy” where a patient takes multiple medicines unnecessarily.

The review will look at introducing a more efficient handover between primary and secondary care by ensuring, for example, GPs have the data they need and are able to challenge and change prescribing made in hospitals. It will also address the management of non-reviewed repeat prescriptions, including encouraging patients to ask questions about their treatment, to ensure they don’t remain tied to repeat prescriptions that are no longer needed.

The role of digital technologies in reducing overprescribing will also be considered, as will the increased role for other forms of care, including social prescribing.

Th review will consider how doctors and pharmacists can be supported to review prescriptions and ensure patients are receiving the most appropriate treatment for their needs. It will also look at instances where prescriptions are made for conditions which in individual circumstances may be better aided by other forms of care; where there is potential overlap in patients being prescribed multiple drugs to manage the same condition; and where individuals are staying on repeat prescriptions which roll over without being reviewed.

In 2016, Health Survey England found that nearly half of over 75-year-olds surveyed were taking five or more medicines, with this percentage rising the older people were.

While in the majority of cases patients are often receiving multiple drugs due to specific or complex needs, the review will look at how to ensure treatment remains up to date and appropriate so that patients feel as well as possible.

NHS England Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Keith Ridge said: “Doctors, pharmacists and patients need to work together to ensure people are on the right medicines, for the right amount of time.”

He said that recent successes in reducing unnecessary antibiotics and medicines with care homes and GP practices, on polypharmacy and on starting to end overmedication for people with learning disabilities, all showed what can be done on this important issue.

More information is available at GOV.UK website.

Last reviewed 18 December 2018

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