Routine NHS treatments doctors warn may be 'useless or harmful'- read the full list

The leading doctors' association has called for medical professionals to re-think how they issue the treatments on the list

Siobhan Fenton
Health Correspondent
Monday 24 October 2016 16:24 BST
Woman had reportedly broken her thigh bone while in India years prior to her death
Woman had reportedly broken her thigh bone while in India years prior to her death (Rex)

Leading doctors have warned the NHS is prescribing dozens of treatments to patients which are effectively useless.

The treatments may cost up to £2bn per year despite having little or no benefits, and can sometimes also incur side effects for patients. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges released the list of ‘useless’ medicines, calling for a change of culture in how doctors prescribe medication and treatments.

The group, which represents 22 royal medical colleges, warned: “more doesn’t always mean better” when it comes to medical intervention. Treatments which they have highlighted, include:

X-rays for back-pain

Can be unnecessary unless other complications or concerning features are present

Blood transfusions

Can only be necessary for major bleeding or severe anaemia, iron treatments can resolve other similar or related symptoms

Plaster casts

For small fractures, such as broken feet, bones can heal just as quickly in a removable boot as a plaster cast.

Other small fractures, such as broken wrists in children, can be treated with a removable splint

Calcium tests

Are used in the event of the symptoms of kidney stones, bone disease or nerve related disorders. However, they may not be necessary unless you are seriously ill, especially if you have had one within the last three months

Epilepsy injections

For children with epilepsy, treatment which can be dissolved in the mouth, is preferred to medication which has to be injected and can be onerous

Bronchiolitis treatment

Often given to children with breathing difficulties, but evidence of whether work is contested


Should not be taken following a miscarriage to reduce risk of further miscarriages nor during pregnancy to reduce blood clots

Ultrasound scans

Should not be used to check if a foetus is bigger than normal

Protein level checks

If you have a small, simple ovarian cyst of less than 5cm in diameter and have not undergone menopause, it is unlikely you will need to have levels of protein Ca-125 checked

Dementia screening

Routine screening does not exist, anyone with concerns is told to discuss their specific issues or symptoms with their doctor

Thrush treatment

May not be necessary for vaginal discharge, doctors should examine your vagina to rule out other conditions such as allergy or low hormones

Helmets for flat head syndrome in children

Helmet therapy can be ineffective and patients or the parents of patients are recommended to discuss other treatments which their doctor

Constipation tablets

For children, changes to diet and lifestyle can help resolve constipation rather than tablets

Saline solution

When cleaning a small cut or a graze, water can be just as effective

Imaging for minor head injuries

Minor cases often do not require imaging

Treatment for high blood pressure

Can be unnecessary if no other risk factors or complications present

Routine cholesterol level checks

While taking statins, routine cholesterol level checks can be unnecessary unless you have pre-existing conditions such as heart attack or stroke

General anaesthetic

For some injuries, sedation rather than a full anaesthetic can suffice

Blood tests to diagnose menopause

Are often unnecessary. Other symptoms can be monitored such as hot flushes, sweats or lighter and irregular periods

Electronic monitoring of babies’ hearts in labour

Often unnecessary unless you have a higher than normal risk of complications

Prostate cancer screening

Can be unnecessary unless you have other higher risk factors due to race or family history

Head scans for psychosis

Are only helpful in some cases to diagnose psychosis

Before taking any medical treatment, you should always consult your doctor for advice.

You can find more guidance from the AOMRC on their website

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