Women over 45 do not need a blood test to diagnose the menopause and X-rays are no real help to those with lower back pain, doctors have said.
The advice, drawn up by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, features on a list of 40 treatments that bring little or no benefit to patients.
The list is part of a campaign to reduce the number of unnecessary medical treatments.
Patients are also encouraged to ask more questions about procedures.
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.
These have been used as part of the Choose Wisely campaign to highlight the need for patients and doctors to talk frankly about how health issues should be treated.
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
The current list of treatments will be added to every year.
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The academy says there is evidence that patients often pressure doctors into prescribing or carrying out unnecessary treatments and the NHS is also coming under increasing pressure to reduce over-medicalisation - in other words the medicines and treatments it prescribes.
For some time now, GPs have been advised to cut back on prescribing antibiotics to 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?
Prof Dame Sue Bailey, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, told the BBC: "Some of these treatments can be quite invasive, time-consuming; there are simpler and as-safe options, so why wouldn't you?
"Because I think what 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."