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GP consultation for pre-school cough costing NHS millions

By Emma Wilkinson

Cough in pre-school children costs the NHS more than £30m a year, mainly in GP consultations, say UK researchers.

Yet much of this could be reduced through introducing delayed antibiotic prescriptions and using practice nurses to triage patients and offer advice, they suggested.

For example, reducing antibiotic use and consultations by 50% would save £2.3m a year.

The study, based on data from 11 general practices, is the first to estimate the burden of acute cough in the UK.

It found the average cost to the NHS per episode is £27.43 and the average cost to parents and carers is £14.77.

Study leader, Dr Alastair Hay, senior lecturer in primary care at the University of Bristol said: "This cost represents 1.3 million consultations each year in the UK."

He added that previous research had shown that delayed prescriptions with appropriate information leaflets could cut consultation rates without affecting clinical outcomes.

"In this study, if antibiotic use and reconsultations had been 50% lower, our estimate of cost per episode would be £2.04 lower and the annual cost to the NHS reduced."

He said further work was needed to assess the value of GP consultations in children with acute cough in spotting those who are seriously ill and offering reassurance. .

But added: "There is scope for evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectives of interventions designed to reduce this burden."

The study is published in BMC Family Practice.

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