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The United Kingdom relies on a substantial number of foreign-trained doctors, each with unique medical training and experiences. A recent study investigates the drug prescription behaviours in English GP practices, exploring whether the origin of a GP's training influences the medications prescribed.

Understanding how GPs trained overseas operate within the English general practices is important to shape future policies to identify the competencies that a foreign-trade GP needs to develop to align with those of UK-trained doctors, to ensure a uniform prescribing behaviour across GPs, and to foster an environment that attracts more overseas GPs to contribute their expertise in the UK. The findings shed light on crucial aspects of healthcare delivery and the potential implications for patient satisfaction and overall health outcomes.

The study examined prescription patterns across English general practitioner (GP) practices, categorising them according to the proportion of GPs trained outside the UK. While becoming GPs in the UK mandates internal registration and recognition of their degrees, foreign-trained doctors often maintain their original attitudes and prescription behaviours. Relocating to the UK exposes these physicians to various cultural disparities, encompassing training, healthcare systems, and doctor-patient relationships. Consequently, GPs trained abroad may persist in prescribing medications based on cultural norms, aligned with their country of origin's medical settings, or influenced by epidemiological and demographic patterns of the country they trained in.

The results of the study revealed significant differences in prescription behaviours across GP practices. In practices with a higher percentage of foreign-trained GPs, there were increased prescriptions for antibiotics, mental health medications, analgesics, and antacids. This pattern persisted even after accounting for patient and practice characteristics. While the study identified noteworthy differences in prescription patterns, it also investigated the broader impact on patients. Surprisingly, the variations in prescribing behaviours did not correlate with differences in patient satisfaction or an increase in unplanned hospitalizations. This indicates that the observed differences in prescriptions may be suggestive of over-prescribing rather than a response to patient needs.

Understanding these variations in prescribing habits is essential for shaping policies that ensure consistent healthcare services across GP practices. By pinpointing the factors influencing prescription behaviour, policymakers can work towards standardizing medical practices, reducing health inequalities, and optimizing patient outcomes.

This study offers a valuable glimpse into the intricate world of prescription practices in the UK, highlighting one of the potential effects of the presence of foreign-trained GPs. The findings underscore the need for nuanced policies that address the root causes of prescribing variations, ensuring a uniform and high standard of care across GP practices. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, these insights become instrumental in creating a more equitable and effective healthcare system for all.

Click here for more information about the study, published by Elsevier

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.


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