The NHS has saved nearly £400m in the space of a year through more cost effective prescribing.

Researchers at Keele University’s department of medicines management have found that in 2008, English primary care trusts achieved a total saving of £394m through more consistent use of lower cost medicines.

GPs have been prescribing generic drugs for common conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and gastric problems.

The researchers said the largest gains were made on cholesterol fighting statin drugs, with £278m saved in 2008.

NHS North West was the strategic health authority to make the largest saving over a year, achieving a figure of more than £70m.

Norfolk was the best performing PCT, with savings totalling £7.8m.

Michael Whitehouse, assistant auditor general at the National Audit Office, which published the results of the study, said: “These findings demonstrate the extent to which GPs choosing to prescribe cheaper but just as clinically effective generic medicines can lead to real savings for the NHS.

“This is all the more important as the NHS’s spending on medicines continues to rise year on year, as the UK’s population ages and more and better treatments become available. 

“The almost £400 million saved in just one year is money available to improve the quality of patient care.”