Better access to alternative therapies needed to reverse prescribing trends, says RCGP

Publication date: 10 September 2019

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs has responded to a report from Public Health England on prescription medications.

She said: "This report analyses prescribing data for medications that when prescribed appropriately can be effective and beneficial for many patients – and it shows that the vast majority of prescriptions issued are short term, and that we are seeing a decline in opioid prescriptions for chronic pain, both of which are encouraging trends.

"What it also indicates is the severe lack of alternatives to drug therapies for many conditions – and where effective alternatives are known and exist, inadequate and unequal access to them across the country.

"There are wide-ranging and complex issues surrounding the prescribing of opioids and antidepressants. GPs don't want to prescribe medication long-term unless it is essential and most patients don't want to be taking medication long-term, but there will always be some patients for whom medication is the only thing that helps with distressing conditions such as chronic pain, or depression and anxiety.

"When prescribing any of the medications considered in this report, the mantra for prescribers will be to prescribe the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time – and to offer regular medication reviews. But the decision to prescribe will also be made taking into account the physical, psychological and social factors affecting a patient's health, as well as clinical guidelines – and in conversation with the patient about the risks and benefits of taking the medication.

"Whilst the vast majority of prescriptions will be appropriate, if we are to reverse the prescribing trends outlined in this report, GPs need better access for our patients to alternative therapies in the community. We also need more high-quality research into alternatives to drug therapies in general – as well as around dependence and withdrawal - and for this to shape the clinical guidelines that GPs use to inform our practice."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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