The Government has chosen England’s chief pharmacist to look into ‘problematic’ overprescribing in the NHS, it has announced.

Health and Social care secretary Matt Hancock revealed last week (8 December) that the Government will look into overprescribing to address ‘problematic polypharmacy’ and ensure patients receive the treatment they need.

The review will be conducted by England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge, the Government said.


‘Problematic overprescribing’


The review will mainly focus on addressing ‘problematic polypharmacy’, where needed, and reducing overprescribing, the Government said.

Dr Ridge will be tasked with ensuring pharmacists and doctors receive the support they need to review prescriptions and provide patients with ‘the most appropriate treatment for their needs’, the Government said. He will look in particular at situations where there is a potential overlap of multiple medicines prescribed to treat the same condition and where people are subject to repeat prescriptions without being reviewed.

Mr Hancock said: ‘Recent advances in medicine have led to fantastic developments in managing and treating certain conditions, but poorly managed prescribing can lead to serious issues for patients such as increased admissions to hospital or antibiotic resistance.

‘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.’

According to the Government, NHS spending on medicines has risen by 5% a year between 2010 and 2018, from £13bn to £18.2bn.


Help reducing waste


Welcoming the review, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said that the Government should also implement broader incentives so pharmacies can help reduce medicine waste in the health service.

He added: ‘We absolutely agree that all patients should be taking the most appropriate medicines for their needs and this is something that community pharmacists are ideally placed to help with.

‘Pharmacies could also do much to help to reduce the use of unnecessary or inappropriate medicines – for instance services that check the need for medicines that are being dispensed on repeat prescriptions, and to reduce the risks of taking medicines, for instance offering falls prevention services or support for people after they have been discharged from hospital.’