Explore England’s drug prescription data

The prescribing of psychiatric drugs touches on a range of key issues when it comes to discussing a new vision for mental health. Such prescriptions are running at massive and ever-increasing levels.

To give just one small example, a July 2015 report by Public Health England estimated that up to 35,000 adults with a learning disability – that’s 1 in every 6 people known to their General Practitioner (GP) as having a learning disability – are being prescribed an antipsychotic, an antidepressant or both. This is occurring without a recorded diagnosis and without such adults having the conditions that the drugs are supposedly designed to treat. The suspicion is therefore that the drugs are being dispensed merely as a “chemical restraint” to control behaviour.

However, every month the National Health Service (NHS) in England publishes anonymised data about the drugs prescribed by GPs. But these raw data files are large and unwieldy, with more than 700 million rows.

Thus the existence of OpenPrescribing: one of a range of projects built by the EBM DataLab at the University of Oxford, to help make complex medical and scientific data more accessible and more impactful in the real world.

Here is a video that provides a short walk-through the use of OpenPrescribing:


You can find out more and search the data from here. This includes being able to:

  • Look at the drug-prescription data from any particular GP practice or any particular Clinical Commissioning Group.
  • Search for a chemical by name or code, and get trends for total prescribing.
  • Look at long-term trends, using annual data going back to 1998, on all drugs dispensed in the community in England.
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