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GPs under fire for being 'too willing' to prescribe antibiotics

GPs have come under fire for being too willing to prescribe antibiotics for respiratory tract infections, after a Health Protection Agency survey found patients who ask for one are almost always successful.

The HPA questioned 1,700 people in England and found that 97% reported being given an antibiotic by their GP or nurse the last time they requested one.

Over half of those questioned said they expected antimicrobial treatments for coughs, colds and flu, with around 25% believing that these are bacterial infections. One in ten admitted to keeping leftover antibiotics.

Dr Cliodna McNulty, head of the HPA's Primary Care Unit, said: ‘Health professionals need to learn to resist demands from patients for treatments they know have little or no effect on coughs and colds.'

But Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chair, defended GPs' prescribing record. ‘One of the many benefits of the unique relationship between GPs and their patients is that these occasionally difficult conversations can be had in a consultation, allowing the doctor and patient to come to a mutual agreement on the best course of treatment,' she said.

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