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24-hour lab safely cuts antibiotic use

Overnight access to bacteriology labs can safely reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics, a new study shows.

An evaluation of overnight analysis had previously found it reduced antibiotic use by two-thirds, but this follow-up study was the first to demonstrate the reductions were clinically appropriate.

Among 357 patients treated on the accelerated bacteriology laboratory examination (ABLE) scheme in the Grampian area, 37 per cent received antibiotics, 66 per cent of them delayed. In all but 10 of the treated patients, GPs had been notified that the cultures had proved positive.

An audit of 699 consultations found the rates of repeat visits and repeat antibiotic prescriptions were 'almost identical' between ABLE patients and controls, suggesting no patients had been denied antibiotics they needed.

Study leader Dr Ian Gould, consultant in microbiology at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said: 'While overall use of ABLE in Grampian is low, it seems to be appropriate in that it is successfully being used to identify bacterial infection and reduce unnecessary antibiotic scripts.'

The findings were reported in the latest issue of the European Journal of General Practice.

Another study of attitudes towards the service – which has been running for six years – found 67 per cent of GPs combined overnight lab exams with delayed prescribing and 53 per cent thought it reduced antibiotic scripts.

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