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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.

Find practice level prescribing data

Note - all PLP files are here but may not display in date order

Summary
Access the data - warning: large file size
Date ranges available

Summary

Practice level prescribing data is released on the first Friday of each month, around two months after the data month end date. For example, June data is released on the first Friday in September.

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 three 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 two 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.
Practice level prescribing data: more information

Describes which practices and professionals are included in the data and how prescription data is collected.

Practice level prescribing - glossary of terms

A detailed description of the terms used in this data set.

Have a question? Call us on 0300 303 5678 or contact enquiries@nhsdigital.nhs.uk.

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