GPs prescribing brands such as Lemsip as prescription bill for NHS explodes

Published on Tuesday, 08 November 2011 12:08
Posted by Scott Buckler

The phrase 'Southern softies' may soon be a thing of the past as analysis completed by SSentif on the NHS’s painkiller prescription bill reveals a huge north-south divide, with Northern GPs prescribing up to 69% more painkillers than those in the south


The NHS spend on analgesics for the period 2010-11 was £442M, equating to an average spend per head of £8.80, but in some northern towns and cities this figure increases to as much as £15 per head whilst in some areas of the south it is as low as £3.26 per head.

According to figures, the highest prescribing rates are in Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Rochdale and Blackpool, with painkiller prescription bills in those primary care trusts averaging £2.3m each. These figures are more than double the prescription rate in the least medicated PCTs of Richmond and Twickenham, Camden and Westminster despite having significantly lower populations.

SSentif's research also analysed the correlation between deprivation, age (percentage of population over 65 years of age) and painkiller spending. In the south there was a very strong correlation between painkiller spending and age yet almost none with deprivation despite having three of the most deprived areas of the country in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham, who regardless of their high deprivation percentage, all spend less than £5.50 per head. In the north there is a slight correlation with deprivation and almost none with age, with the highest spender Middlesbrough having a below average percentage of elderly people, but a high deprivation percentage of 38 per cent.

As well as revealing the huge spending variations between PCTs, data analysis also showed that some PCTs are spending thousands prescribing over the counter painkillers and branded cold and flu treatments such as Lemsip, Beechams, Anadin and Panadol.

Judy Aldred, managing director of SSentif: "£442million is a huge amount and the data shows spend on analgesics has increased steadily year-on-year, with figures from 08/09 and 09/10 showing spends of £384m and £410m respectively".

"At the moment the responsibility for the prescribing budget lies with Primary Care Trusts but this is about to change. PCTs are phasing out and GPs are being given greater responsibility, including the management of their own prescribing budgets. Although the figures involved were comparatively low, it was concerning to see products such as Lemsip and even Alka Seltzer XS, offered on prescription and when GPs begin shouldering the responsibility for prescribing costs it will be interesting to see if this continues."

Source: SSentif

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