GPs squander more than £200m a year on overpriced prescriptions and drugs that go unused, a National Audit Office report has revealed. The level of wastage varies widely across the country, with some primary care trusts (PCTs) overspending by millions of pounds, while others barely overspend at all, the report concludes (see list below).
According to a list drawn up by the NAO, Surrey PCT could save almost £7m each year if its GPs prescribed more efficiently, while GPs in Redcar and Cleveland PCT prescribe so efficiently that they could only improve by £371 a year. The report calls for PCTs to offer help to GPs and to benchmark themselves against other PCTs. Prescribing advisers should, the report states, maximise their face-to-face contact time with under-performing practices, and PCTs could also bring in financial incentives for practices to improve.
NHS Confederation chief executive Gill Morgan said: “PCTs need to challenge GP practices to design the right incentives in the system to help this happen. Individual GPs need to consider what medicines they prescribe when alternatives are available.”
The report also looked at how GPs’ relationships with the pharmaceutical industry affect their choices of prescription drugs.One in five of the 1,000 GPs surveyed said pharmaceutical companies had more influence than prescribing advisers.