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GPs face checks on antibiotic prescribing

By Steve Nowottny

GPs face a crackdown on ‘inappropriate' use of antibiotics and inspections of their infection control procedures under plans by the Government's new health and social care regulator.

The Care Quality Commission, which last week sparked controversy after saying it would make it mandatory to follow NICE guidance, is to launch a major assault against spiralling rates of resistant infection in the community.

The CQC said ‘in contrast to previous regulators' it would have a remit to tackle control of healthcare-associated infections ‘not only by hospitals, but also by care homes and GPs'. It will have the power to prosecute or even close down healthcare providers that fail to meet its standards.

Practices identified as posing a risk will face targeted assessments of their systems for infection control and prevention, and the use of antibiotics will be placed under the microscope as part of increased scrutiny on prescribing practices.

The move follows widespread concern over rising rates of community infection.

Pulse revealed last year that the Department of Health planned an MRSA surveillance system in primary care after an unexplained 90% rise in GP use of antibiotics for Staphylococcus aureus. Our investigation also revealed huge variations in the amount allocated by PCTs for infection control – from nothing to more than £2m.

The CQC plans to use Health Protection Agency mandatory surveillance data to identify areas of poor performance. PCTs will face assessments against the new registration requirements and hygiene code.

The commission's evidence to the Commons health select committee inquiry on patient safety, said: ‘Failure to provide appropriate care for healthcare-associated infection in care homes, or inappropriate antibiotic prescribing by GPs, will impact on the risk carried by hospitals, as would medicines management.'

A CQC spokesperson told Pulse: ‘If GP practices are brought within the scope of regulation, they will be required to demonstrate adequate infection control systems. The CQC may carry out assessments of practices' contributions to infection prevention and control, targeted using information on risk.'

Dr Bill Beeby, chair of the GPC's clinical and prescribing subcommittee, said: ‘I don't have any problems with the aims but I hope we're looking at something that is a proper study rather than simply pointing fingers.'

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