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More than 2,000 GPs and primary care professionals attended this year’s Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Georgia Richards discusses the presentation she gave along with members of Oxford University’s DataLab.

This year’s RCGP Conference, held on 4th-6th October 2018, opened with a flash mob! Warming up the delegates before Dr Ben Goldacre took the stage for his plenary address.

During our session we showed delegates how they can use OpenPrescribing to rapidly audit their prescribing, use routine feedback and investigate trends and cost-saving opportunities"

Goldacre shared some of the innovative work being done by his team at the DataLab. A small multidisciplinary team of academics, clinicians and software engineers who turn data into practical tools for coalface clinicians. His take home message was that “conventional academic papers are not the answer!” Instead, he proposed the need for a coordinated machine that disseminates and implements knowledge. Such a machine would require the combined knowledge of data analysis, epidemiology, statistics, research methods, clinical trials and patient care. For this, “we need: patients and coalface clinicians to tell funders and universities that we demand better service.” Goldacre’s full plenary lecture is available in video here and slides here.  

Our workshop: OpenPrescribing - Making NHS data useful for GPs

Goldacre, Dr Helen Curtis and I ran a 60-minute workshop on ‘Healthcare Technology’. We had over 100 delegates attend our session (image of the packed room below) and received positive feedback including an NHS chair commenting that it is “ridiculous” that most Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were not making use of OpenPrescribing data.

During our session we showed delegates how they can use OpenPrescribing to rapidly audit their prescribing, use routine feedback and investigate trends and cost-saving opportunities. OpenPrescribing is a live and freely accessible explorer that collates routinely available prescribing data. It currently serves over 50,000 unique users a year and the unique 'price-per-unit' tool saved £243,000 at practice level (£1.47m at CCG level) within three months of its launch.

For my section of the workshop, I discussed the prescribing measures on opioids, the topic of my SPCR funded Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil). There are currently six opioid measures on OpenPrescribing including 'prescribing of opioids (total oral morphine equivalence)’ and ‘high dose opioids per 1000 patients’. Rather than just reporting the number of prescriptions, the oral morphine equivalent (OME) measure accounts for the strength of prescriptions by converting all opioid prescriptions to OME’s using the references and dose conversions available here. The high dose opioid measure uses the Opioids Aware recommendation that doses above an OME of 120 mg/day has no increased benefit for patients with chronic pain. For both measures, CCGs are ordered by mean percentile over the past six months in comparison to deciles across all CCGs in the NHS in England.

The success of our RCGP workshop was highlighted here by GP Online. 

Thanks to the author: Georgia C Richards, SPCR doctoral student at the University of Oxford. She can be contacted on twitter (@Richards_G_C) or by email (