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BMA responds to NHS England action plan on wasteful drug use

Responding to the publication of NHS England's action plan aimed at decreasing "wasteful drug use", Dr Andrew Green, BMA Prescribing subcommittee chair said:

“The BMA’s GP committee recognises the need to prescribe in a cost-effective manner, but where prescribing is changed for any other reason than clinical benefit to the patient, the patient must be involved and the extra workload for GPs needs to be recognised. Any prescribing policy needs to include flexibility to allow GPs to continue to meet individual patient’s needs without having to negotiate bureaucratic hurdles.

“GPs have a contractual duty to prescribe drugs that their patients need, and pressure must not be placed on them to act in a way that may contravene those regulations. Where there are clinical reasons that drugs should not be provided on the NHS, such as for co-proxamol or homeopathic substances, then these should be added to the ‘blacklist’ which formally prevents NHS supply.

“The BMA’s GP committee encourages patients to self-care wherever possible, but the suggestion to restrict prescribing of effective drugs that are also available over-the-counter cannot be supported as it is likely to increase health inequalities and expose GPs to the potential for complaints. We are particularly concerned about the harm this may cause for those already most disadvantaged in society, and cannot have GPs applying arbitrary means-tests or judgements as to the likelihood of patients not taking recommended medicines on the basis of cost.

“This proposal to reduce the NHS provision of commonly used effective and safe medicines represents a fundamental change in the relationship between residents of England and their NHS, and a change of this magnitude should not be instigated by CCGs, but should only happen following regulatory change by politicians who can then bear the political and electoral responsibility for their actions.

“The BMA will respond formally to this consultation and would encourage individuals and organisations that share our concerns to do so too.”

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Notes to Editors

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.