Dr Azim Malhotra, NHS consultant cardiologist and president of the Public Health Collaboration, said: “The figures are truly shocking. “Overprescribing is currently one of the biggest threats to public health, and one estimate suggests that, due to side effects, pharmaceuticals are the third biggest killer in the world after heart disease and cancer. “It’s time to put social prescribing at the heart of every patient encounter.”
One in five GP visits are for non-medical reasons, including relationship problems, loneliness and isolation, which the NHS cannot help with.
Experts believe that social prescribing – where doctors refer patients to exercise, art and meditation sessions – could help many people while taking the burden off overworked GPs.
Professor Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, family doctor and chair of the National Academy of Social Prescribing, said: “Social prescribing can take the pressure off GPs by helping people to get
the support they need in their community, but just as importantly, it helps people take more control of their health.’
The push for alternative ways to care for patients comes because at least 10 percent of prescribed drugs (about 110 million units) are unnecessary and can cause harm, while adverse drug reactions cause up to 20 percent of hospital admissions. National Review of Excessive Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Appointments.
Data show that at least 15 percent of the population (about 8.4 million people) take more than five different medications a day, often using one drug to treat the side effects of another.
Dr Michael Dixon, Chair of the College of Medicine, said: “Medicine as we know it is no longer affordable or sustainable.
“Nor can it stop the rise in obesity, mental health problems and most long-term illnesses. New medical thinking is needed.”
Commentary by Dame Helen Stokes
About one in five GP visits are for social rather than medical reasons – relationship problems, isolation and worries about finances, personal safety or housing.
These problems can have a huge impact on health, but cannot be solved by GPs or the NHS.
People may find it difficult to cope with them because of a lack of confidence, time or money, or because of caring responsibilities and health problems.
Prescribing social workers – often working in GP offices – are here to help. They can understand people’s circumstances and help them determine what support they need.
They can also accompany people to a new event or support group, ensuring they feel comfortable when they arrive.
Research from the National Academy of Social Work shows that such care can reduce loneliness, improve well-being, and positively impact a wide range of health conditions.
This may take pressure off GPs, but just as importantly, it helps people take more control of their health.