University of Nottingham: Nottingham academic appointed NHS lead for prescribing

A professor from the University of Nottingham, whose research focuses on the safety of patients, has been appointed as the inaugural National Clinical Director for Prescribing with NHS England, to help tackle the issue of overprescribing.

Professor Tony Avery, OBE, is a GP in Nottingham and Professor of Primary Health Care in the School of Medicine at the University. He is also an NIHR Senior Investigator and member of the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre. He was awarded an OBE in the 2022 New Year Honours list.

The post was created after a series of recommendations were made following a recent government review looking at ways to reduce the problem of overprescribing of medicines in the NHS. Professor Avery will take on the new role as a secondment, whilst continuing with this role at the University.


Professor Tony Avery
Overprescribing happens when people are given medicines they do not need or want, or where potential harm outweighs the benefit of the medication. It can happen when a better alternative is available but not prescribed, the medicine is appropriate for a condition but not the individual patient, a condition changes and the medicine is no longer appropriate, or the patient no longer needs the medicine but continues to be prescribed it.

Around one in five hospital admissions in over-65s and around 6.5% of total hospital admissions are caused by the adverse effects of medicines. The more medicines a person takes, the higher chance there is that one or more of these medicines will have an unwanted or harmful effect.

Professor Avery said: “I am delighted to be taking on the role of National Clinical Director for Prescribing at such an important time for the NHS. Medicines have a vital role in treating illness and helping people to live with long-term conditions, but they are not always the best solution. In this role I want work with NHS colleagues and member of the public to help ensure that we get the balance right. This means health care professionals and patients coming to shared decisions on whether medicine are needed, and how long they should be taken for. When medicines are not the best option we need to find other ways of helping patients with their health problems.”

Professor Avery is committed to ensuring the safe, effective and appropriate use of medicines and has worked in partnership with the pharmacy profession, other healthcare professionals and patients over 30 years to drive forward research and policy development in prescribing and patient safety.

He has led a number of major studies investigating the frequency, nature and causes of prescribing safety problems in the NHS. He has also developed effective methods for tackling hazardous prescribing, most notably the pharmacist-led IT-based intervention called PINCER, which has now been rolled nationally to general practices in England.

Professor Avery’s work recognises the vital role that medicines have in treating illness and helping people live with long-term conditions, while acknowledging that prescribing of a medicine is not always the best solution. He is passionate about ensuring health care professionals and patients have the information and support they need for shared decision making on whether a prescription is needed and if so, how to balance the effectiveness and safety of medicines alongside the costs (to the patient, the NHS and the environment).

The University is immensely proud that Tony has been appointed to this important role. His research on safe prescribing has made a real difference to a huge number of patients in the UK and worldwide, and his skills and knowledge will now be felt nationally through this new role in the NHS.”
Professor John Atherton, Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Professor Steve Powis, National Medical Director, said: “Overprescribing is a complex issue, involving systems and culture as well as individuals, and tackling it needs a system-wide response, with clinicians and patients both receiving more support to ensure the NHS is getting prescribing and shared decision-making right.

“During the review, we heard from hundreds of patients, clinicians and experts who helped us to identify a range of ways in which we can improve prescribing and benefit patients and local communities. “As we look to recover from the pandemic and do things differently, we will continue to work in partnership with all those involved to implement the recommendations and deliver on the improvements so we reduce overprescribing once and for all.”

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