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Scotland’s prescription spending drops

29 January 2013

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Spending on prescriptions has significantly dropped in Scotland, despite a rise in the number issued, a new report shows.

Family doctors are getting more “support and guidance” on prescribing from NHS Scotland, according to the report.

Scotland’s Auditor General, Caroline Gardner said: “Providing doctors with more support and guidance is likely to improve spending management further.

The Auditor General, who independently investigates financial management in Scotland added: “Demand for prescriptions is likely to increase further and it’s important that the NHS continues to work with GPs to make sure patients get the drugs they need.”

Between 2004 and 2011, spending on prescriptions fell by 11% yet the volume of prescriptions rose by a third.

And the report has claimed there is still the potential to save more than £25 million a year without affecting patient care.

Entitled Prescribing in General Practice in Scotland, the report said this could be done by  “reducing waste and cutting the use of less suitable medicines.”

The Scottish health service now has more in-depth information on GPs prescribing than in the past, which should be used to target areas for further improvement, such as identifying where particular drugs are over- or under-prescribed.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of BMA Scotland’s General Practitioners Committee said: “Prescribing costs in the NHS are second only to workforce costs in the health budget and therefore opportunities to make savings here can have a significant impact on health spending.

“Better management of patients with high blood pressure or diabetes, for example, can be effective in reducing hospital admissions.”

Other recommendations from the report include increasing the number of support staff and prescribing more generic medicines.

Dr McDevitt feels that although it can save money, changing people’s prescriptions could lead to confusion.

“For some patients, changing their drugs can be straightforward and can deliver some savings locally, however for other patients changes in their regimen can lead to problems in managing their conditions,” he said.

“GPs have taken great steps to increase generic prescribing, but for some patients this is not the answer.”