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Prescribing by GP practice


In line with the letter to Cabinet Ministers from the Prime Minister in July 2011, and the objectives of the "Power of Information" (Department of Health Information Strategy 2012), from September 2012 prescribing data by GP Practice was made available at two levels of detail:

  • Chemical level (first released in December 2011)
  • Presentation level (a more granular level, first released in September 2012)

Announcement - April 1st 2014

Following a review of the release of practice-level prescribing data and the receipt of feedback, the release of chemical-level data will stop after the next publication, covering prescribing for December 2013. This final release will be published on April 4th, 2014.

Chemical-level data may be derived from the more granular presentation-level data by GP practice, which will continue to be released monthly; the next release will be published on April 4th, 2014.

Note that these two releases are being published later than usual this month. After that the publication date will return to the last working day of each month.

If you have any comments on this change, please email us on: enquiries@hscic.gov.uk


Announcement - March 8th 2013

Following a review of the release of practice-level prescribing data and the receipt of feedback, the release of chemical-level data will stop after the next publication, covering prescribing for December 2012. This final release will be published on April 5th, 2013.

Chemical-level data may be derived from the more granular presentation-level data by GP practice, which will continue to be released monthly; the next release will be published on April 5th, 2013.

Note that these two releases are being published later than usual this month. After that the publication date will return to the last working day of each month.

If you have any comments on this change, please email us on: enquiries@hscic.gov.uk


Announcement - December 6th 2012

Following a review of the release of practice-level prescribing data and the receipt of feedback, the chemical-level data will stop being released in the near future. Monthly releases will continue until March 2013, when the final release will cover data for December 2012.

Chemical-level data may be derived from the more granular presentation-level data by GP practice, which will continue to be released monthly.

If you have any comments on this change, please email us on: enquiries@hscic.gov.uk


Using and interpreting the data

Practice prescribing data requires careful interpretation, and the information should not be looked at in isolation.

Prescribing data (chemical level) by GP practice
This data was released for the first time in December 2011, and provided information relating to September 2011, with subsequent data released monthly thereafter. Data from June 2010 onwards has also now been made available.

Prescribing data (presentation level) by GP practice
This data was released for the first time on 28 September 2012 (data relating to June 2012) with subsequent data released monthly thereafter. Data from previous months (starting August 2010) was also released from October 2012.

All of these data releases are under the terms of the Open Government Licence (external)


What information is being made available?

Covering all general practices in England, the data includes figures on the number of prescription items that are dispensed each month and information relating to costs.

  • For each GP practice, the total number of items that were prescribed and then dispensed is shown.
  • The total Net Ingredient Cost and the total Actual Cost of these items is shown.

Chemical level

  • All prescribed and dispensed medicines (by chemical name), dressings and appliances (at section level) are listed for each GP practice.

Presentation level

  • All prescribed and dispensed medicines, dressings and appliances are listed at presentation level, for each GP practice. (Presentation level gives the individual drug name, the form, and strength or size accordingly).
  • The total quantity of drugs dispensed (in terms of number of tablets or millilitres, for example) is shown.

This data does not list each individual prescription and does not contain any patient identifiable data.


Accessing the data

Each month a file of practice prescribing data is made available in CSV format. Due to the large size of each monthly data set (over 4 million rows), standard spreadsheet applications may not be able to handle the volumes of data contained in the monthly data sets. It may be necessary for data users to analyse the information using specialist data-handling software.

Practices are identified in the prescribing data sets by their national code. Supplementary file(S) contain further practice identifiers, such as names and addresses. This supplementary information can be linked to the prescribing data set using the national practice code.

For presentation level data, a further supplementary file contains the chemical name for each presentation linked to the prescribing data set by the British National Formulary (BNF) code.


What does the data cover?

General practice prescribing data is a list of all medicines, dressings and appliances that are prescribed and dispensed each month. A record will only be produced when this has occurred and there is no record for a zero total.

For each practice in England, the following information is presented
at chemical level for each medicine (by chemical name), dressing and appliance;
at presentation level for each medicine, dressing and appliance, (by presentation name):

  • the total number of items prescribed and dispensed
  • the total net ingredient cost
  • the total actual cost
  • presentation level: the total quantity.

The data covers NHS prescriptions written in England and dispensed in the community in the UK. Prescriptions written in England but dispensed outside England are included. The data includes prescriptions written by GPs and other non-medical prescribers (such as nurses and pharmacists) who are attached to GP practices.

GP practices are identified only by their national code, so an additional data file - linked to the first by the practice code - provides further detail in relation to the practice.

Presentations are identified only by their BNF code, so an additional data file - linked to the first by the BNF code - provides the chemical name for that presentation.

Samples for each of these files is available to download below:

Chemical-level data

Presentation-level data


Are all practices included?

All practices in England are included in this data. The practices listed include all registered practices in England, and also a number of 'dummy' practices created by PCTs to identify prescribing in certain environments or circumstances (including: specialist clinics, hospices, prisons, training units, etc.)

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