HEALTH chiefs in Hartlepool have the second biggest expenditure on painkillers per patient in the UK, according to new figures.
The NHS spends more than £440m a year on painkillers, with health trusts spending an average of £8.80 per head of population on drugs to treat pain, with some GPs even giving patients Lemsip and Anadin on prescription.
Figures released by Data for England showed that in Hartlepool, £15.01 is spent per head by the Primary Care Trust, with only neighbouring Middlesbrough shelling out more with £15.39.
The figure was as low as £3.26 in the south of the country, with other PCTs near the top of the expenditure table including Heywood, in Lancashire, at £14.80, Blackpool at £14.29 and Great Yarmouth at £14.25.
Data analysis firm SSentif examined figures for 2010/11, and managing director Judy Aldred said: “£442 million is a huge amount and the data shows spend on analgesics has increased steadily year-on-year, with figures from 08/09 and 09/10 showing spends of £384m and £410m respectively.
“At the moment, the responsibility for the prescribing budget lies with primary care trusts but this is about to change.
“PCTs are phasing out and GPs are being given greater responsibility, including the management of their own prescribing budgets.
“Although the figures involved were comparatively low, it was concerning to see products such as Lemsip and even Alka-Seltzer XS offered on prescription.
“When GPs begin shouldering the responsibility for prescribing costs it will be interesting to see if this continues.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is important that those living with pain should be able to obtain adequate relief.
“However the decision to prescribe pain relief must be clinically based on the assessment of the patient’s needs.
“There are many factors that affect the number of prescriptions for painkillers dispensed in one particular area and no one factor can be looked at in isolation.”