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NHS hospital drug costs are set to surpass spending in primary care

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 26 April 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1766
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. London

An explosive growth in hospital drug spending is set to overturn the longstanding pattern of the NHS medicine budget, Nigel Hawkes reports

If current prescribing trends continue hospital spending will soon exceed that by GPs in England.

This trend—identified by data in a new report by the King’s Fund1—would mark a dramatic change since the beginning of this century, when primary care spending represented over 80% of the total.

Since then, costs in primary care have been contained, while those in hospitals have not. From 2010-11 to 2016-17 primary care spending on prescribing rose by only 0.6% a year, from £8.6bn to £9.0bn, while hospital spending rose at an average rate of 12.1% a year, from around £4.2bn to £8.3bn. As a result, hospital spending now represents 47.6% of the NHS’s total spending on medicines.

A lack of data

The report says that it is hard to pin down why hospital spending should be …

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