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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

We need to stop this threat to the DTB

I am astounded to find out that a key clinical publication is being restricted to clinicians across Wales.

The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) which is currently sent to all doctors, I’m told, will soon be rationed. It is incredible that the Health Minister has made this short term decision that funding for the Bulletin is being restricted for nine months and then ended completely.

The Minister's decision to cut the distribution of the DTB to one copy per GP surgery and one copy per hospital department until March next year, and then cut funding altogether after that, is one that will impact heavily on the ability of doctors to treat patients safely.

The Bulletin is a vital tool for doctors, which is now in jeopardy. It gives independent advice on medicines and is an indispensable publication for any doctors prescribing medicines to patients.
If the Welsh Assembly Government values doctors and other health professionals, limiting the provision of 'tools of their trade' is a strange way of showing it.

Evidence based prescribing is essential in order to provide good quality healthcare to patients. Complications through both overuse and underuse of drugs can lead to emergency hospital admissions and the wastage of medicines, causing unnecessary costs for the NHS in Wales.

While I agree that with technology moving into a new dimension and confirmation that the DTB will be available to all clinicians electronically, I’m still concerned that not having the bulletins available in paper form could cause problems with homes visits and emergency call outs or if computers fail.

Only last year, the Government attempted something similar, by trying to limit the distribution of the British National Formulary. This provides healthcare professionals with authoritative and practical information on the selection and clinical use of medicines in a clear, concise and accessible manner.

My colleague Dr Andrew Dearden, Chairman of the BMA's Welsh Council is also incredulous about the plans for the DTB and has passed these comments on to me: “This move by the Assembly Government to de-fund an important part of the NHS’s information system about drugs, is indeed strange. This bulletin plays a vital part in medicine safety and in helping doctors choose the right drug for each and every patient in Wales. When the Minister says she cannot afford to make sure each practising clinician has this up-to-date information to hand, she is, in effect, saying she cannot afford patient safety.”

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