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RCGP: Defend general practice from media onslaught

by Jess Hacker
24 September 2021

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GPs are prescribing correctly in the ‘vast majority of cases’, the RCGP has said after a spate of anti-GP media coverage following the publication of the Government’s overprescribing report.

Hitting back against widespread media critique of GPs’ prescribing practices, the College said it would ‘continue to defend hardworking GPs against the current onslaught of criticism’ and pressure the Government to provide better support.

It follows an official review concluded that 10% of medicines dispensed in primary care in England were not needed, leading to ministers pledging to ‘take action’.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said this would include GP practice training and moves to alternative treatment options including social prescribing.

It will also mean ‘ensuring GPs have the data and medical records they need’ and ‘are empowered to challenge and change prescribing made in hospitals’, it added.

Professor Martin Marshall, RCGP chair, said: ‘Prescribing is a core skill for GPs and many of our nurse and pharmacist colleagues in primary care, and doing whatever we can to prescribe the most appropriate medicine for our patients, in an evidence-based way, is something we strive to do on a daily basis – and in the vast majority of cases, this review shows this is happening.’

He added that the country’s growing population and the increase in people with chronic conditions means many patients are taking several medications.

While these medicines are ‘necessary, appropriate and for the benefit of the patient’, the aspiration to reduce them is ‘a good one’, he said.

‘GPs will only ever prescribe medication to patients in conversation with them, and after a frank discussion about the risks and benefits of the treatment – and when alternative options have been explored.

‘What GPs and other members of the practice team often need, however, is better access for their patients to alternative, non-pharmacological treatments, which can be patchy across the country.’

Earlier in September, the Doctors’ Association UK reported a Telegraph columnist to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) for breaching the Editors’ Code of Practice with ‘inaccurate’ articles in which she suggested GPs are ‘hiding’.

This comes a week after a man was charged with assault after attacking four members of staff in a Manchester GP practice, with two taken to hospital and treated for head injuries with others suffering lacerations.

The attack had led to harsh criticism from several parties over the Government’s lack of central support or condemnation of anti-GP attitudes and behaviour.