Word of the day: prescribe

If you’re ill and go to the doctor’s, once the doctor has examined you and discussed your symptoms, they’ll usually prescribe some medicine to help you get better. The doctor usually writes a prescription which you then take to the chemist or pharmacy, where you can pick up the prescription; they give you the medicine – whether it be pills/ tablets, a cream, an inhaler or whatever.

Well, I say usually, but in fact in the UK there is increasing pressure on doctors not to prescribe anything and in particular not to prescribe antibiotics. And the pressure seems to be working because last year prescriptions fell by over 7%. In the past, some people would have seen this as another sign of an increasingly poor service. You have to wait days to get an appointment with the doctor and then when you go, they only spend a short time talking to you and then finally all they do is tell you to rest and drink lots of water!

However, nowadays there is increasing awareness of problems such as antibiotic resistance and drug dependency. Sometimes doctors give in to pressure from patients and prescribe antibiotics for colds and flu even though they do not cure these illnesses. Patients also sometimes fail to complete the full course of antibiotics. In both cases, this can lead to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment, which can be very dangerous.

In other cases, increasing emphasis is being placed on non-drug treatments. So for example, if you suffer from depression, instead of prescribing  anti-depressants, the doctor might refer you to a therapist or in the future might even prescribe gardening.

  • What’s your experience of going to the doctor? Is it easy to get an appointment? Do they normally prescribe medicine?
  • Have you heard much about antibiotic resistance? How could it be resolved?
  • What do you think about doctor’s prescribing gardening?
  • Can you think of any other unusual treatments that might work for different conditions?

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