The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has drawn up a list of 40 medical treatments that bring little or no benefit to patients as part of a campaign named Choose Wisely, aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary medical treatments taking place.
Medical experts from 11 different specialties were asked to identify five treatments or procedures commonly used in their field that were not always necessary or valuable.
The campaign highlights the need for patients and doctors to talk frankly about how health issues should be treated and that patients should be encouraged to ask more questions about procedures.
The advice includes:
- Tap water is just as good for cleaning cuts and grazes as saline solution
- Small wrist fractures in children do not normally need a plaster cast, and will heal just as quickly with a removable splint
- Children with bronchiolitis, or breathing problems, usually get better without treatment
- Electronic monitoring of a baby's heart is only needed during labour if the mother has a higher-than-normal risk of complications
- Chemotherapy may be used to relieve symptoms of terminal cancer but it cannot cure the disease and may well bring further distress in the final months of life
- Routine screening for prostate conditions using a test known as a Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA test, does not lead to longer life and can bring unnecessary anxiety.
Need to look at best option for individual patients
The academy says patients should always ask five key questions when seeking treatment.
- Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
- What are the risks or downsides?
- What are the possible side-effects?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What will happen if I do nothing?
Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said, “We've got is a culture of 'we can do something, therefore we should do something' and we need to stop and reflect and decide what is the best option for the patient in their individual circumstances."
The current list of treatments will be added to every year.