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Prescribing pressure partly to blame for GP crisis


05 May 2016

The rapidly growing burden of issuing repeat prescriptions is one of the causes of the current GP crisis, a new report reveals.

A surge in demand for medication between October 2010 and October 2015 has resulted in most GP practices employing an administrator solely to manage repeat prescriptions.

Research carried out by The King’s Fund noted that the increase in patients with long-term conditions has led to GPs struggling to cope with having up to 80% repeat prescriptions between morning and afternoon clinics.

The average number of repeat prescriptions generated in a week by practices that completed the survey was 1,091, where the average registered population is 10,880.

Despite attempts to streamline processes through electronic prescribing and repeat dispensing, there is still significant pressure on practices.

One administrator noted: “Now we’ve got electronic repeat dispensing, the chemist can’t see it.

“So we’re getting a constant barrage of patients saying, the chemist says they’ve no medications left, because they haven’t been downloaded from the NHS computer to the pharmacy.

“Because it’s not the pharmacy, they say go back to your GP, whereas in actual fact, if they wait another day or two, it will then arrive from the NHS computer.”

Data on primary care prescribing from NHS England between October 2010 and October 2015 shows a 46% increase in antidepressant prescribing, a 93% increase in mucolytics for COPD, a 34% increase in drugs used to treat diabetes, and a 68% increase in anticoagulants and protamine medicines prescribed.

Understanding pressures in general practice is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the pressures facing GPs.

The report analyses 30 million patient contacts from 177 practices and includes extensive research with GP practices and trainees.

As well as prescribing pressure, the research found there has been a 13% growth in face-to-face consultations and a 63% increase in telephone consultations.

Beccy Baird, fellow at The King’s Fund and lead author of the report, said: “Investment alone won’t help the crisis in general practice.

“To avoid the service falling apart, practical support to do things differently is crucial and must be underpinned by an ongoing understanding of what is driving demand and activity.

“Only then will working in general practice be an attractive proposition and ensure the service remains at the heart of the NHS.”


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