Efficiency versus thoroughness in medication review: A qualitative interview study in UK primary care

Polly Duncan (Lead / Corresponding author), Christie Cabral, Deborah McCahon, Bruce Guthrie, Matthew J. Ridd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Medication reviews may improve the safety of prescribing and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) highlights the importance of involving patients in this process. Aim To explore GP and pharmacist perspectives on how medication reviews were conducted in general practice in the UK. Design and setting Analysis of semi-structured interviews with GPS and pharmacists working in the South West of England, Northern England, and Scotland, sampled for heterogeneity. Interviews took place between January and October 2017.

Method: Interviews focused on experience of medication review. Data saturation was achieved when no new insights arose from later interviews. Interviews were analysed thematically.

Results: In total, 13 GPS and 10 pharmacists were interviewed. GPS and pharmacists perceived medication review as an opportunity to improve prescribing safety. Although interviewees thought patients should be involved in decisions about their medicines, high workload pressures meant that most medication reviews were conducted with limited or no patient input. For some GPS, a medication review was done 'in the quickest way possible to say that it was done'. Pharmacists were perceived by both professions as being more thorough but less time efficient than GPS, and few pharmacists were routinely involved in medication reviews even in practices employing a pharmacist. Interviewees argued that it was easier to continue medicines than it was to stop them, particularly because stopping medicines required involving the patient and this generated extra work.

Conclusion: Practices tended to prioritise being efficient (getting the work done) rather than being thorough (doing it well), so that most medication reviews were carried out with little or no patient involvement, and medicines were rarely stopped or reduced. Time and resource constraints are an important barrier to implementing NICE guidance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E190-E198
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number680
Early online date11 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Care of older people
  • Medication review
  • Polypharmacy
  • Primary health care
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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