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Hunt urges GPs to benchmark themselves against others on antibiotic prescribing

An online tool comparing GP practices on their antibiotics prescribing has been hailed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt as a ‘new weapon’ to help GPs stop giving out the drugs needlessly.

Mr Hunt said the new ‘fingertips’ tool published on the Public Health England website will give GPs ‘the power to see the latest data on how many antibiotics their peers are prescribing’.

He added: ‘I want to see antibiotics being prescribing only when necessary and hope this will be a new weapon to help GPs cut the numbers of antibiotics needlessly being given out’.

The tool gives data at CCG and GP practice level on total use of antibiotics and broad spectrum antibiotics, as well as other outcomes relating to antimicrobial resistance including infection control.

It is the latest in a series of such ‘fingertips’ tools to benchmark CCG and GP practice performance on various clinical metrics that have been enshrined in the NHS Mandate.

It comes after official prescribing data showed GPs have continued to cut the amount of antibiotics they prescribe, with a 5% overall cut in prescribing rates last year, which NHS chiefs attributed to the introduction of CCG performance targets.

Another scheme where the chief medical officer (CMO) Professor Dame Sally Davies sent individual GPs personal letters has been used to cut antibiotic use at practices with particularly high prescribing rates.

Dame Sally said the new online tool would mean ‘GPs can now compare their prescribing patterns which will hopefully encourage people to think whether antibiotics are really needed’.

However RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said GPs were already ‘working very hard to reduce antibiotics prescribing’ and that ‘recent figures have shown that our efforts have been successful’.

She said the data ‘must not used as a stick to beat GPs with if, for example, one practice is prescribing more than a neighbouring one, which could be for very good reasons’.

Dr Baker added: ‘Public perception needs to change – our patients need to understand that when diseases become resistant to antibiotics, it means that antibiotics will cease to work and as it stands, we don’t have an alternative.’ 

Readers' comments (35)

  • Who gives a flying xxxx about what anything Hunt says now!

    No one give a xxxx about what you think about this or that any more.
    Your weasle words have no value on whether we use antibiotics or not.

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  • ‘I want to see antibiotics being prescribing only when necessary' says the man who's takes his kids to A&E for a cold.

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  • GPs urge Hunt to benchmark himself using online "How much of a tool are you?" tool.

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  • As long as population of this site with data adds no workload/expense to GPs, and the aim is to achieve a narrowing of the wide under/overprescription of antibiotics to a sensible mean, rather than resulting in punitive measures for those outliers, this is a good idea.
    As easy as it is to dismiss everything that comes out of this man's mouth, done right, this open source data can be very very useful in identifying outliers, looking at resistance patterns, helping audit, and supporting doctors.
    When we doctors stop feeling threatened by open source data and object to everything in a kneejerk manner (and to support that, when governments stop using it as a whip to flog us with), and we all start behaving like scientists and using modern technology to access and analyse big data, major strides in public health can take place.

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  • Harley Thespaniel

    Not a bad idea, but the wrong messenger.

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  • I don't give a crap what you think Mr Hunt..go stick it

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  • And one of my GP colleagues is being sued for not prescribing enough antibiotics to a patient - no doubt he felt under pressure not to prescribe and look where that has got him - in a law suit and with a patient who has lost 3 toes! Stop beating GPs with sticks and comparing practices - it will only cause more cases like this. Very sad ☹️

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  • Ildiko Spelt

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  • Ildiko Spelt

    ....and ANY DOCTOR will prefer prescribing antibiotics even if they are not necessary (as they won't harm anyway)...then to get into arguments with certain people and get reported for not giving antibiotics... It is much more difficult to defend if you haven't done it then if you have done it !!!

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