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A faulty production line

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)

  • Hunt, whatever you suggest, I will do the exact opposite

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  • Data shows a crude figure per 100 registered patients, but not whether the script was the right therapeutic quantity (eg 3 day trimethoprim). Its weighted by STAR-PU, rather than ASTRO-PU which would arguably be more useful, especially with care homes etc.

    And as always areas with high deprivation, elderly or care homes will be hammered by stats which don't adjust their weightings enough to allow for extremes - one practice in our area has over 40%/+65yrs.

    Doesn't adjust for:
    - locum use rates,
    - number of registrars,
    - disease prevalence,
    - deprivation,
    - rurality,
    - patient list turnover,
    - clinician profile and skill set,
    - distance from and utilisation of alternative prescribing services such as WIC/MIU/OoHs
    - and weighted list size

    And presumably as we move from measuring widgets to outcome-based commissioning the therapeutic outcomes will be measured to ensure that non-prescribing doesn't increase adverse events, admissions, complications, exacerbation, mortality etc?

    No? Oh, shame - won't be much use then.

    Altogether now 'We welcome...'

    MDUs - Please publish stats to match on increasing litigation on failure to prescribe.

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  • I wish he would just stop wittering on about things of which he knows nothing and trust as, as competent professionals with rather more training, expertise and commitment in health care than he will ever have, to exercise our informed judgement.

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  • In itself this is a good idea though hunt is not the man to deliver it. yes there are a lot of caveats though we will all be aware of doctors who have a reputation for prescribing more antibiotics. If we can reduce the number of prescriptions by high prescribers is that so bad?.

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  • Hunt is a complete pratt.
    can we also have a list of sepsis cases form individual GPs and practices just to make sure we are all doing the same thing !!!
    At a Roal College event which 'our Jeremy' attended recently he clearly indicated that he did not know the role of an Obstetrician and insulted a college guru by asking him was he a midwife
    says it ALL

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  • What F'ing use is this for an individual GP?

    This kind of figure is only useful to tackle broader cohort e.g. entire locality as it is only a tool to see if further evaluation is required to determine the root cause analysis of higher prescribing - it might find the prescribing is entirely appropriate due to high proportion of patients who require AB (e.g. elderly, immune compromised, chronic disease etc) or local high prevelance of certain disease.

    How wound an individual GP know this? What a waste of time.

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  • Actually Jez: We're in this to heal the sick and not make things worse. Your thoughts are largely irrelevant as you are not qualified to know what you're talking about. Which also goes for your Do(ill)H staff too. In any case, according to your H&SC act, you are not in charge of health anyway. Please refer back to veterinary excess consumption of antibiotics as prophylaxis, at the start of the food chain, before prattling needlessly, to people who know far more than you ever will, about things you know nothing about anyway. By the way, how are your investments in healthcare going?

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  • If only he used such talent to do good.

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • Sorry Mr Hunt - whatever you say falls on deaf ears. This is the contempt I and many of my colleagues including the juniors - have for you.

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  • I hope no one gives Hunt antibiotics when he asks for them

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