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New data tool will allow GPs to compare antibiotic prescribing against national rates

Practices will soon be able to monitor and compare their antibiotic prescribing using a new data tool launched in Manchester, ahead of a national roll-out in the coming months.

The new dashboard, unveiled by Greater Manchester Connected Health City yesterday, uses anonymised data from 22 practices in Greater Manchester to analyse their prescribing patterns alongside national trends.

It has been developed by the University of Manchester and Public Health England and is aimed at reducing rates of antibiotic prescribing.

The dashboard allows GPs to ensure high-risk patients are getting the antibiotics they need and can also show whether a practice is prescribing according to guidelines.

Previous research has shown electronically-delivered prescribing feedback can reduce antibiotic prescribing by as much as 12%.

Although the information is currently anonymised, GPs may be able to identify specific patients in the future and request their prescribing data.

The data, which updates every two weeks following analysis by researchers, does not allow practices to compare themselves with other practices as it stands - but those behind the project hope that will be possible in the near future as more practices use the new tool.

Project manager Francine Jury said: ‘It’s an interactive dashboard where you can click on certain conditions and see which antibiotics have been prescribed.'

She added: ‘We’re hoping that GPs will be able to use this data to target their prescribing practice within their surgery so that they can help to reduce the amount of antibiotics they’re prescribing, whether that’s looking at prescribing according to the risk of complications for patients or whether we’re consistently prescribing according to the guidelines.’

She added: ‘Ideally what we’d like is to have local comparisons. If your local patient population is similar, you’d be able to make some real comparisons. What we have at the moment is where you place nationally.’

The dashboard is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and is free for GPs and practice managers in the Greater Manchester area. Plans to roll out the tool nationally are due in the coming months.

Last month, the Government announced a national drive to cut antibiotic prescribing by a further 15% by 2040.

The target forms part of the new UK 20-year vision for antimicrobial resistance and the five year plan - announced by health secretary Matt Hancock - which aims to control antimicrobial resistance by 2040.

Since 2014, the UK has cut the amount of antibiotics it uses by more than 7%, with sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals dropping by 40%.

In 2016 PHE announced GP antibiotic prescribing had decreased by 6% over three years, although research commissioned by the body stated that between 8% and 23% of all antibiotic prescriptions in primary care were still inappropriate - leading to PHE saying this number was as 'at least' 20% and setting a target to cut it in half.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Dear All,
    I think this story ought to read Greater Manchester Connected Health City has paid for yet another system to provide data on antibiotic prescribing, to lie alongside all the previous systems that perform the same function.
    Paul C

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  • Of course reducing inappropriate antibiotics use & countering antibiotic resistance is a laudable aim we all aspire to,but these prescribing comparison statistics really tell us only part of the story.
    We were all taught that Medicine is not clear cut and patients don't always follow the textbook & present as expected. GPs & Nurse Practitioners may be exposed to layers of such advice, as P Cundy has noted above, and this increasing pressure not to treat with antibiotics risks the suppression of clinical judgement. I recall about 12 years ago there was a phase where reduced antibiotic use was associated with increased numbers of significant complications, in particular a worrying increased morbidity & mortality in young adults due to pneumonia.(I can't imagine how devastating for all concerned such a case would be).
    To my mind, whilst this sort of prescribing information is very useful,it would be more useful if it was also matched with the outcomes associated with those prescribing trends (for both those patients treated with antibiotics and those where treatment was withheld) & preferably in similar populations.
    Until we all have prompt, & accurate in house bacterial infection confirming tests,(eg the recently developed rapid sepsis test will be a welcome addition when & if it eventually reaches primary care),then unimpeded clinical judgement is key.
    What we need is not so much to know who prescribed less antibiotics but when it is safe not to, which is where clear guidelines are valuable. But these remain guidelines and no GP should feel pressured to ignore that clinical instinct that says treatment with antibiotics on this occasion is wise.
    It seems logical that there will be a point whereupon low antibiotic prescribing levels may lead to an increased risk of poorer outcomes occurring due to progression of untreated or belatedly treated bacterial infection. This is a particular concern in this unfortunate era of increasingly understaffed & underfunded services where lack of resources may impact the ability of the patient or their GP to keep that individual's clinical situation under regular & prompt review.
    Lastly, until and unless the liberal use of antibiotics in other countries worldwide and their use in animals and farming is addressed our contribution may be too little too late.

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  • Further to my previous comments above ..

    Chris South, 'The Times'.. today...
    "Pressure on GPs to cut down on antibiotics may be leading to fatal infections in older people, a study suggests. Those over 65 who did not immediately receive antibiotics for a common illness were up to eight times as likely to develop sepsis and up to twice as likely to die, researchers found."

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  • The problem is knowing which prescriptions were unnecessary.

    Easy in retrospect, much harder at the time.
    We will be the ones in the coroners courts, not the policymakers.

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