GPs prescribe £15m painkillers

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DOCTORS in South Yorkshire prescribed more than £15 million worth of painkillers last year - with all four health trusts spending far above the £8.80 national average per person.

Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster primary care trusts each spent more than £10 per resident in prescribing painkillers.

Spending in Barnsley and Doncaster was among the highest in the country - at more than £13 for each member of the population.

In parts of southern England the spend was just £3.26 per head.

New numbers from data analysis firm SSentif also showed some PCTs are spending thousands prescribing over-the-counter painkillers and branded cold and flu treatments such as Lemsip, Beechams, Anadin and Panadol.

Between January and June, the NHS nationally spent more than £3,000 on prescriptions for cold and flu remedies and more than £59,000 on prescribing over-the-counter painkillers - although there is no data to show whether any of the money was spent by South Yorkshire health trusts.

Judy Aldred, managing director of SSentif, said: “The data shows spend on analgesics has increased steadily year-on-year.

“Although the figures involved were comparatively low, it was concerning to see products such as Lemsip and even Alka Seltzer offered on prescription.

“When GPs begin shouldering the responsibility for prescribing costs it will be interesting to see if this continues.”

Peter Magirr, head of medicines management at Sheffield PCT, said the study did not take into account factors such as age and deprivation.

“In Sheffield, treatments are prescribed after individual clinical assessments and we remain committed to making sure each and every one of our patients is prescribed the most effective treatment for their individual needs,” he said.

A Barnsley PCT spokesman said: “Last year we undertook an in-depth review of over-the-counter medicine prescriptions and found Barnsley GPs do not routinely prescribe branded medications.

“The PCT regularly reviews GP prescribing and investigates any significant variations against national and regional data.

“NHS Barnsley is committed to ensuring analgesic medicines continue to be prescribed locally in line with national best practice guidance.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is important those living with pain should be able to obtain adequate relief.”