28 March 2017

Prescription Clampdown Must Not Disadvantage Vulnerable Patients, Says RCGP

Responding to comments made by NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens in the Daily Mail this morning, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: 

“Our population is growing and ageing, and our patients’ needs are changing rapidly, so we are going to have to think about different ways of working - and that means looking right across the health service. The College is keen to work with NHS England and equivalent bodies in the devolved nations to make this a success.

"Prescription costs are a significant expense for the health service, and so if we can take sensible measures to reduce these costs then we should. Many medications are available very cheaply - and other products are much more readily obtainable than when they first became available on prescription, and both GPs and the public should be mindful of this.

"If patients are in a position that they can afford to buy over the counter medicines and products, then we would encourage them to do so without a prescription - but this isn’t the case for everyone.

"Prescribing is a core skill in general practice and family doctors will always prescribe in the best interests of the patient in front of us, taking into account the combination of physical, psychological and social factors affecting their health.

"Imposing blanket policies on GPs, that don’t take into account demographic differences across the country, or allowing flexibility for a patient’s individual circumstances, risks alienating the most vulnerable in society - and we will be seeking assurances from NHS England that this won't be the case.

“Likewise, the College would reiterate our concerns about charging overseas visitors for access to general practice. We do not oppose the UK claiming back money that it is owed from other countries, where this is appropriate - and we have accepted the sensible measure negotiated by the BMA for new patients to self-declare their eligibility status upon registration at a GP practice.

"But we should not exaggerate the amount of money that can be raised through GPs getting involved in cost recovery, particularly when balanced against the administrative and training costs that introducing such a process would incur.

“We need to see more details of Simon Stevens’ full plans. But ultimately, general practice makes the vast majority of NHS patient contacts, for a small fraction of the overall budget - investing in our service is the most effective way of keeping the health service sustainable.

“Whatever cost saving measures are being floated, it is imperative that NHS England’s GP Forward View, which pledges £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5000 more GPs by 2020, is implemented as a matter of urgency."

 Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 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.