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Prescribing savings in 2008

In 2007 the National Audit Office reported that primary care trusts (PCTs) could save more than £200 million a year without compromising patient care if GPs prescribed cheaper, generic medicines.  Keele University has now confirmed the NAO’s finding by calculating that almost £400 million has been saved by the Department of Health, the NHS and PCTs in England, through more cost effective prescribing as recommended in the NAO report.

The Department of Medicines Management at Keele University has confirmed that, in 2008, PCTs in England achieved a total saving of £394 million through a more consistent use of lower cost, generic medicines for some common conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and gastric problems. The largest savings were made on statins, with £277 million saved in 2008.  The Strategic Health Authority which made the largest saving over the year was the North West, which made savings of over £70 million.  Norfolk achieved the largest saving among PCTs, totalling £7.8 million.

“These findings demonstrate the extent to which GPs choosing to prescribe cheaper but just as clinically effective generic medicines can lead to real savings for the NHS. This is all the more important as the NHS’s spending on medicines continues to rise year on year, as the UK’s population ages and more and better treatments become available. The almost £400 million saved in just one year is money available to improve the quality of patient care.”

Michael Whitehouse, assistant auditor general at the National Audit Office

Notes for Editors


  1. The NAO report, Prescribing Costs in Primary Care, and accompanying materials, including guidance material for Prescribing Advisers, is available at
  2. Details of the medicines studied are available, with the breakdown of amount saved across each drug type, Strategic Health Authority and Primary Care Trust, on the NAO’s website. Further details on how the savings for each PCT were calculated are also included on the website.
  3. The savings calculated represent savings that have been obtained through changing prescribing patterns, rather than changing prices for medicines, over the time period considered. The total saving in 2008, across all PCTs in England, was £394 million. An Excel version of the tables, which show how this figure breaks down by PCT, is available on the NAO’s website
  4. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at
  5. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Tim Burr, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 29/09