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Practice Level Prescribing in England: a summary

Practice level prescribing data is a list of all medicines, dressings and appliances that are prescribed by all practices in England, including GP practices, each month.

Practice Level Prescribing data series

The Practice Level Prescribing series has transferred to the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA). They are releasing a new dataset from April 2020 that combines elements of, and is intended to replace, the Detailed Prescribing Information (DPI) data previously released by NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) via the Information Services Portal (ISP), and the Practice Level Prescribing in England (PLP) data released by NHS Digital 

Practice level prescribing data

Practice level prescribing data is released on the 24th of the month or the first working day afterwards. For example September 2018 data will be published on Monday 26 November 2018.  

For each practice in England, the following prescription information is presented at presentation level for each medicine, dressing and appliance that has been subsequently dispensed in the community in the UK:

  • the total number of items prescribed and dispensed
  • the total net ingredient cost
  • the total actual cost
  • the total quantity (in terms of number of tablets or millilitres, for example)

The data does not cover practices in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Presentation level means data is provided at the level of each individual drug name, form and strength or size. It does not list each individual prescription and doesn't contain any patient identifiable data.

This data is published and made available under the Open Government Licence as part of the government's commitment to transparency. The data comes from NHS Prescription Services, part of the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA). Practice level prescribing data is obtained from the BSA's prescribing and dispensing information systems.

For each month there are 3 files:

Practice Prescribing Data file 

This is the main data file giving the practice level prescribing data at presentation level using the full 15 digit BNF code.

GP prescribing chemical substance file 

This gives the chemical substance or section as appropriate using the 9 digit (Drugs) or 4 digit (Appliances) BNF code.

GP prescribing practice address file 

This gives the practice name and address. 

Practice prescribing data requires careful interpretation, and the information should not be looked at in isolation.

Access the data - warning: large file size

Each month a file of practice level prescribing data is made available in CSV format. The monthly data set is large (over 10 million rows and over 1GB of data). Due to the large size standard spreadsheet applications may not be able to handle the volumes of data contained in the monthly datasets. The data can be viewed using add-ons to existing software, such as the Microsoft PowerPivot add-on for Excel, to handle larger data sets, can be used. 

Once PowerPivot has been installed, to load the large files, please follow the instructions below. Note that it may take at least 20 to 30 minutes to load one monthly file.

  1. Start Excel as normal
  2. Click on the PowerPivot tab
  3. Click on the PowerPivot Window icon (top left)
  4. In the PowerPivot Window, click on the "From Other Sources" icon
  5. In the Table Import Wizard scroll to the bottom and select Text File
  6. Browse to the file you want to open and choose the file extension you require, such as CSV

Once the data has been imported you can view it in a spreadsheet.

Date ranges available

Since September 2012 prescribing data by GP practices was made available at 2 levels of detail:

  1. Presentation level, a more granular level first published in September 2012, covering data from August 2010, Released on the first Friday of the month.
  2. Chemical level, first published in December 2011, covering data from June 2010 and was stopped on April 5th 2013 with the publication of data for December 2012. Chemical level data can be derived from the more granular presentation-level data by GP practice which continues to be published.

Last edited: 7 September 2022 12:02 pm