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Placing certain drugs on repeat prescription could save GPs ‘significant time’

by Awil Mohamoud
9 November 2020

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GPs could save ‘significant time’ by reviewing medication tasks and placing certain drugs on repeat rather than acute prescription, according to a study published in the British Journal of Medical Practitioners (BJMP).

Researchers, looking at ways of reducing the GP workload burden, collected data on the tasks carried out by the on-call doctor at a single NHS GP practice in Barnsley, using the EMIS platform. 

It found that medication tasks accounted for 51% of all (969) duties carried out over the space of a month – excluding consultations – while requests for appointments, results and advice made up 36%, referrals 2%, sick notes 5%, and other tasks, 6%.

Analysing the individual medication tasks for the month, the researchers concluded that almost half (49%) of requests ‘could have been on repeat prescription rather than being acutely prescribed’.

This means between 10-25 medication tasks per day could have been avoided. If it is assumed each one would take a GP two minutes to complete, ‘this could save 20-50 minutes per day, which amounts to 100-250 minutes per week or 6.5-16 hours per month’, they found.

Possible medicines for repeat prescription

The researchers listed a number of medicines for gastric reflux, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension, which they thought should have been on repeat or variable repeat prescription, including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole, statins such as simvastatin, and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) such as ramipril. 

They added that this would also be the case for prescriptions for palliative patients in care homes, who may have a constant need for laxatives such as senna or lactulose, or drugs such as paracetamol. 

The report also warned that some medications ‘could not have been on repeat or variable repeat prior to the request being sent’, because the GP would need to review or alter the drug dose based on their clinical judgement to ensure patient safety. 

This includes ‘drugs that were required acutely, such as for short-lived infection and transient pain relief’, and for cases where alternative medication is required due to manufacturing issues or unavailability from the pharmacy. 

The researchers concluded that their findings also ‘demonstrate the increasingly demanding role of the on-call GP outside of consultation hours’, and highlighted that ‘increasing pressures have had the effect of reducing job morale as well as patients’ satisfaction with services’.