This week we launched a new feature on OpenPrescribing, an NHS Price Concession calculator. We show the cost impact of price concessions for the whole of England here and the calculator appears on every single practice and CCG dashboard so you can work out the impact locally.

What are price concessions and what are the broader issues?

Price concessions are a short term agreement by the NHS to pay more than the already agreed price for a generic medicine because pharmacists are unable to obtain the generic at its usual price. Regular readers of our blog will remember a series of blogs last year (see archive) where we detailed the issues and this led to the development of our magnificent Drug Tariff and Concession Viewer, which shows the prices over time for each individual drug, automatically updated on a daily basis.

The National Audit Office conducted an investigation into why concessions have become more frequent and costly (using our data and viewer) and the official NHS planning guidance told CCGs to assume that the high level of concessions would not continue in 2018/19. Despite this, we know price concessions are continuing to be significant, and seem to be increasing again, and we hear from our users at local CCGs that the financial pressure they are incurring as a result is forcing them to make difficult decisions about how to fund these concessions.

Subsequently the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee convened a hearing on the issue and issued their initial report with a series of recommendations including that more timely information should be available to NHS organisations and importantly, this should be done in a transparent manner.

We didn’t ask for permission or funds: we just built the tool.

How have we built it?

Our tool combines Drug Tariff pricing data from NHS Business Services Authority with Price Concession data from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, to calculate the price increases due to each concession. We then combine this with prescribing data, also from NHS BSA, to determine the cost impact across CCGs, practices, and NHS England as a whole. As prescribing data lags pricing data by approximately six weeks we project historical data forwards in order to estimate the impact of price concessions as soon as they are granted.

As with all our work at the DataLab, this represents the collaborative effort of pharmacists, academics and software engineers working closely together to develop a live tool that none could have produced alone.

What is next?

This is the first iteration of our concession calculator. At the DataLab we pride ourselves on developing our tools swiftly and iterating them based the needs of our users. Please get in touch with suggestions for improvements via feedback@openprescribing.net