Patients should question their doctor about the harms as well as the benefits of tests, treatments and procedures they are prescribed, according to new guidance from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.
The advice, which is supported by the patient champion group Healthwatch, encourages patients and doctors to take a joint decision about treatment after also asking what will happen if no treatment is prescribed and how effective any alternatives might be.
The initiative is part of the Choosing Wisely programme, which is designed to reduce over-medication and cut down on interventions that are of little or no value.
The academy has made a list of more than 50 further tests, treatments and procedures which may have little value or could be replaced with a simpler alternative.
These include encouraging everyone to take vitamin D supplements in the winter rather than just the frail and the elderly, extending the period the contraceptive pill is prescribed for women to reduce visits to the GP, and not using drug treatments to manage behavioural and psychological problems in patients with dementia if they can be avoided.
It suggests doctors should talk to relatives and carers before diagnosing dementia rather than just relying on a basic cognitive test, while they should discuss with patients and their family about using antibiotics at the end of life.
The list adds to a previous campaign launched in 2015 which set out the first wave of 40 tests, treatments and procedures deemed to have little or no value.
Professor Dame Sue Bailey, who leads the Academy’s Choosing Wisely campaign, said: “This is all about enfranchising patients and giving them a sense of ownership of the way they are treated.
“Too often patients just accept what a doctor is telling them without question. We want to change that dynamic and make sure the decision about what treatment is taken up is only made when the patient is fully informed of all the consequences.
“Too often there’s pressure on both the patient and the doctor to do something when doing nothing might often be the best course of action.”