Views & Reviews From the Frontline

The number needed not to treat

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1197 (Published 23 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1197
  1. Des Spence, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. destwo{at}yahoo.co.uk

After finishing training for general practice I applied for an academic position for a year. I wrote a proposal on an observation I had made, that individual doctors generate much of their own workload. But as we say in Glasgow, “What’s for you won’t go by you,” and I wasn’t interviewed. My observation still holds true, however.

Doctors are aware of the NNT (number needed to treat), the number of patients who need to be treated for one to benefit from the intervention. (Remember that the NNT may be for …

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