The College of Medicine’s Beyond Pills Campaign fights to stop over-prescribing in the UK
Accessed from the world wide web at 13:00 hrs 18.06.22.
In June, The College of Medicine launched the Beyond Pills Campaign – calling for urgent Government intervention on over-prescribing in the NHS.
With yet another new health minister in place and the cost of living crisis raging, the Beyond Pills Campaign continues to fight to stop unnecessary prescribing for the benefit of both patients and those who work in our healthcare systems.
Around 1.1 billion medicines are currently prescribed unnecessarily. Supported by eminent voices in both the Government and our healthcare system, the Beyond Pills campaign calls for the Government to immediately address the nation’s unsustainable prescription service through re-prescribing and social prescribing.
Speaking at the Integrative and Personalised Medicine Congress in June, The College of Medicine Chair Dr Michael Dixon said: “Medicine, as we know it, is no longer affordable or sustainable. Nor is it able to curb the increase in obesity, mental health problems and most long-term diseases.
“A new medical mindset is needed, which goes to the heart of true health care. The advantages and possibilities of social prescription are limitless.
“An adjustment to the system now will provide a long-term, sustainable solution for the NHS to meet the ever-increasing demand for funding and healthcare professionals.”
The Campaign was established in the wake of the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s National Overprescribing Review, which was published in September 2021 and revealed:
- 10% of prescribed drugs (approximately 110 million items) are unnecessary and may cause harm;
- Adverse drug reactions account for 10-20% of hospital in-patient admissions;
- At least 15% of the population (8.4 million) take more than 5 separate medicines daily, often using one drug to treat side effects of another
- Dispensing in primary care doubled from 10 prescription items per head per year in 1996 to 20 in 2016
- Tackling overprescribing could improve the health of millions, achieving benefits ‘comparable to a new blockbuster medicine’, according to the Review’s author, Dr Keith Ridge CBE, former Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England.
While the Government and NHS England accepted that tackling overprescribing would improve the health of millions, little progress has been made since the publication of the Review. The Beyond Pills Campaign has been launched by the College of Medicine to implement achievable goals.
Among its main calls to action, the Beyond Pills Campaign advocates re-prescribing and the promotion of social prescribing, echoing recommendations in the National Overprescribing Review. With adverse drug reactions accounting for 1 in 5 hospital admissions for over-65s, contributing significantly to the £2.2billion wasted through medical negligence claims last year, the campaign is calling for re-prescription and medication reviews across the healthcare industry.
The process of social prescribing empowers people to participate actively in their own health and care as an addition, or in some cases, alternative to drugs and generally involves a patient being referred to a link worker, who works with the patient to co-design a social, non-medical, community-based intervention in order to address specific issues and long-term health conditions.
Huge gaps in the current provision and the awareness of social prescribing means that many patients are deprived of valuable non-medical treatment. As such, the Beyond Pills Campaign aims to reduce drug prescription, expand the number of social prescribing link workers, save crucial funds, and provide support to individuals and local communities hampered by health inequalities. To achieve these goals, it has today launched a campaign that includes six specific actions that need to be taken:
- Improving medical and healthcare training. Social prescribing and a psychosocial approach to treatment needs to be embedded throughout the curriculum
- Addressing financial incentives within the NHS. Financial incentives in the system should centre around community health. For those patients already on a cocktail of pills, medication reviews and appropriate deprescribing need to be emphasised
- Increasing the number of social prescribing link workers
- Primary Care Networks need to employ more link workers to enable access to social prescribing for everyone who could benefit
- Increasing support for the voluntary sector. Government departments need to fund and support voluntary initiatives that encourage healthy communities
- Empowering individuals and communities. Informing individuals about social prescribing and collaborating with volunteers involved in social prescription and local health creation and showcasing benefits
- Further systematic research. Mobilising the research community to develop a fully-fledged programme review into topics including the therapeutic efficacy of social prescribing
From young doctors at the beginning of their careers to key political figures and patients on social media, the Beyond Pills campaign has already garnered a wide raft of support.
Dr Bogdan Chiva Giurca, College of Medicine Council member and founder of NHS
Social Prescribing Champion Scheme, commented: “As a young doctor, social prescribing link workers provide hope to me and my colleagues who are unable to support the ever-growing psychological, social, emotional and practical needs of our dear patients.
“A truly biopsychosocial approach is needed more than ever and our aim is that by 2030, young healthcare students and newly qualified healthcare professionals have access to education and guidelines not only regarding deprescribing, but also providing knowledge of new tools that they can readily use, such as social prescribing.”
Heidi Alexander, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, 2015-2016, said: “Having watched my grandmother’s last years in life revolve around her pill box and knowing that her repeated late-night calls to the ambulance service were as much about acute loneliness as any specific medical episode, it feels imperative to me that we find more effective and efficient ways of providing ‘health care’.”
And Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for Health, 1995-1997, and Chair of the
NHS Confederation 2015-2019, told The College of Medicine: “Policy makers have a tendency to find medical explanations and solutions to issues that have non-medical causes, and also to undervalue the evidence that supports a broader view of the factors which impact on health outcomes. This tendency towards a narrow interpretation of healthcare is profoundly wrong at several levels.”