BackgroundTwo separate prescribing budget regimes (part of GP fundholding and the indicative prescribing scheme) were introduced into UK general practice in April 1991 in an attempt to contain the growth in NHS expenditure on prescribed drugs.
ObjectivesThe aims of this study are (i) to examine whether the fundholding scheme has been more effective at containing prescribing cost growth than the indicative prescribing scheme and (ii) to ascertain whether its implementation, at a practice level, has been affected by local circumstances and conditions.
MethodsPrescribing cost data were collected from two rural, English Family Health Services Authorities for the financial years 1990/1991 to 1993/1994. Exploratory analysis was performed using regression analysis and nonparametric statistical techniques.
Results and conclusionsInitially, the fundholding scheme has been the more effective at containing expenditure on prescribed drugs. However, the implementation of the schemes in rural areas has probably been affected by the existence of practices with permission to dispense drugs to their own patients, due to a lack of pharmacies in such areas.