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Doctors reveal 40 treatments that bring ‘little or no benefit to patients’


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Unnecessary procedures: Senior doctors believe patient pressure impacts medical treatment

Wrist fractures do not need casts, X-rays do not help with lower back pain and water is just as good at cleaning wounds as saline solution, doctors have revealed.

These are just three of 40 common treatments listed by senior medical professionals that are deemed ineffective or of no use.

They have been published as part of a campaign to reduce the number of unnecessary medical treatments provided to patients.

The advice, provided by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC), comes after 82 per cent of doctors said they had prescribed or carried out a treatment which they knew to be unnecessary.

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In an attempt to reduce “over-medicalisation”, the AMRC is encouraging staff to remember “more doesn’t always mean better” as part of its Choosing Wisely UK campaign.

The advice suggests that a plaster cast is not needed for some small wrist fractures in children who may find that a removable splint will help them to heal as quickly.

And that women over 45 do not need a blood test to diagnose the menopause.

It also points out that electronic monitoring of a baby’s heart is only needed during labour if the mother has a high risk of complications and routine screening for prostate conditions does not lead to longer life and can induce unnecessary anxiety

Patient pressure or patient expectation was given as the main reason, the AMRC noted.

It suggests patients should be encouraged ask about the risks or downsides, the possible side effects, if there simpler or safer options, and “what will happen if I do nothing?”.

For example the advice notes that chemotherapy may be used to relieve terminal cancer symptoms but can also be painful, cannot cure the disease and may well bring further distress in the final months of life.

Adrienne Betteley of Macmillan Cancer Support said: “It is vital patients are as well-informed as possible to help them make decisions around their treatment.

“Chemotherapy is a crucial part of cancer treatment however, it can result in severe side effects therefore, it’s important that health care professionals consider the full impact when delivering something so powerful.

“It’s also important cancer patients are told about potential side effects, be offered a care plan, be told where to get support and know who to speak to about their worries and fears.”

AMRC chairman Professor Dame Sue Bailey said: “What is important is that both doctors and patients really question whether the particular treatment is really necessary. Medicine or surgical interventions don’t need to be the only solution offered by a doctor and more certainly doesn’t always mean better”.

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