Colleges list 40 treatments “of little or no benefit to patients”

  • Date: 26 October 2016

A CAMPAIGN to improve communication between doctors and patients and cut overtreatment has published a list of 40 treatments that are of "little or no benefit to patients".

It advises that X-rays are of little benefit for lower back pain if there are no other concerning features, and that small wrist ("buckle") fractures in children do not normally need a plaster cast. Tap water is just as good for cleaning cuts and grazes as saline solution, while chemotherapy for terminal cancer may bring only added anxiety for some patients.

The list of recommendations has been published by the Academy of Medical Royal colleges (AoMRC) as part of its Choosing Wisely campaign, described as "a call to both doctors and patients to have a fully informed conversation about the risks and benefits of treatments and procedures".

The campaign website highlights a "growing culture of overuse of medical intervention" across the UK and says the use of certain treatments varies widely across the country. It says the prescribing of antibiotics, for example, "can vary by as much as two and a half times between one part of the country and another".

Choosing Wisely also urges patients to always ask five key questions when seeking treatment. They are:

1. Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?

2. What are the risks or downsides?

3. What are the possible side effects?

4. Are there simpler, safer options?

5. What will happen if I do nothing?

The AoMRC cited a study carried out last year in which 82 per cent of doctors admitted to prescribing or carrying out treatment which they knew to be unnecessary. The vast majority, it found, blamed patient pressure or patient expectation.

AoMRC Chair Professor Dame Sue Bailey said: “We all have a duty to look after resources in healthcare, especially when the NHS is under so much pressure, but that’s not the main motivation for this initiative.

“What’s much more important is that both doctors and patients really question whether the particular treatment is really necessary. Medicine or surgical interventions don’t need to be the only solution offered by a doctor and more certainly doesn’t always mean better.”



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