Intended for healthcare professionals


Repeat prescribing in general practice

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 03 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7089
  1. Anthony J Avery, professor of primary healthcare
  1. 1Division of Primary Care, School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nottingham Medical School, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK
  1. tony.avery{at}

Receptionists play an important role, but the safety of different organisational routines needs further study

Almost all general practices in developed countries have systems for issuing repeat prescriptions to patients without the need for a consultation. In many countries, including the United Kingdom, the process is aided by clinical computer systems. What do we know about the quality and safety of repeat prescribing, and what is the role of general practice receptionists in the process? In the linked study (doi:10.1136/bmj.d6788) Swinglehurst and colleagues explore and compare organisational routines for repeat prescribing in four UK general practices.1

In the 1980s and 1990s several studies highlighted the scale of repeat prescribing in various European countries.2 A study of 115 general practices in the UK showed that in 1993 75% of prescriptions issued were for repeat items, with this figure rising to around 90% in patients aged 75 years or more.3 Recent information is lacking, but the proportion of items issued as repeats has probably increased over the past two decades along with the …

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