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Making antibiotics more accessible ‘not the way to reduce GP pressure’, says BMA

Making antibiotics more accessible ‘not the way to reduce GP pressure’, says BMA

Making it easier to access antibiotics is neither good for patients nor the way to reduce GP pressures, the BMA has warned.

Patients will be able to obtain antibiotics from pharmacies without seeing a doctor under new plans aimed at reducing the need for GP appointments, according to The Times.

The paper also reported that health secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey had said she had previously shared her own antibiotics with friends and family.

BMA GP Committee deputy chair Dr Richard Van Mellaerts highlighted the dangers of overusing antibiotics, which risks making them less effective and can make some infections more difficult to treat, subsequently increasing pressure on the health service.

‘Sharing prescribed medications, particularly antibiotics, is not only potentially dangerous, but also against the law, and we would ask our health secretary to instead support us in encouraging good and safe prescribing practices,’ he said.

Just four months ago, the Government set out a new commitment to mitigate ‘just in case’ antibiotic prescribing in general practice as part of its strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Dr Van Mellaerts also said that making it easier for others to prescribe antibiotics was not the way to reduce the need for GP appointments or wider pressures in general practice.

Instead, he urged for more funding and resources for practices, community-based services like mental health clinics, and towards retaining and recruiting more GPs.

‘Government must focus on truly beneficial, long-term solutions, not just short-sighted quick fixes that ultimately put patient safety in jeopardy,’ he said.

A spokesperson for Dr Coffey said: ‘The secretary of state has explored a range of policy options to relieve pressure on GPs, including whether it is possible to allow greater prescribing by pharmacists – as happens in many places, including Scotland. 

‘These wide-ranging discussions included reflections on the importance of anti-microbial resistance and societal behaviours around antibiotics.’

They added: ‘The outcomes of these discussions were contained in the secretary of state’s ABCD Plan for Patients, which set out policies to expand the range of services available from community pharmacies.’

NHS England will start piloting services with a prescribing element in at least one ‘pathfinder’ site per ICB, utilising existing community pharmacy prescribers from early 2023, the spokesperson said.

They stressed that pharmacists are already allowed to prescribe medicines within their clinical competence if they have a prescribing qualification, with an estimated 1,000 out of circa 27,000 community pharmacists already holding this.

Pharmacist prescribing would also be part of specific clinical services or patient pathways such as hypertension, high cholesterol, contraception or minor illnesses, they added. 

And they said that pharmacists prescribing antibiotics for UTIs alone could save 400,000 GP appts a year and £8.4m, based on data from Scotland.

A similar service was introduced in Wales in April, where pharmacies can prescribe drugs including antibiotics without involving a GP.

Public health officials warned earlier this year of a rise in extremely antibiotic-resistant Shigella sonnei infections, while a separate study showed that GPs practicing under pressure were more likely to prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics.

The Primary Care Respiratory Society published a pragmatic guide in May to support point of care C-reactive protein testing as part of moves to cut antibiotic prescribing.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David Church 17 October, 2022 10:34 am

Well, it is nearly November 5th.
Does anyone know any guy by the name of Mr Fawkes?
I think his services are required !

Azeem Majeed 17 October, 2022 11:29 am

The government’s plans are unclear but they won’t involve making antibiotics available to buy over the counter. It’s like that the plans will involve protocol-driven prescribing for conditions such as uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women. This kind of prescribing already takes place in parts of the UK and so is not new.

Pharmacists are capable of undertaking this work, but I would rather see increased investment in core GP services to improve access. Increased investment in core GP services will help reduce the fragmentation of primary care delivery we have seen in recent years. The mixed range of interventions the government is introducing to reduce pressures on NHS general practice have not been very successful.

Paul Attwood 17 October, 2022 12:23 pm

T Coffey = F Coffey?

Truth Finder 17 October, 2022 1:17 pm

“…health secretary Thérèse Coffey had said she had previously shared her own antibiotics with friends and family”-Shocking such practice to say the least. By the way, practicing medicine without a license is a criminal offence.

Douglas Callow 17 October, 2022 2:24 pm

investment anywhere BUT general practice.. ……. and so it goes as Tony Wilson one used to say

David Turner 17 October, 2022 3:29 pm

……………………Dr Thérèse Coffey had said she had previously shared her own antibiotics with friends and family.

If only she would restrict sharing her views on improving health care to her family and friends.

Patrufini Duffy 17 October, 2022 4:44 pm

Can I still book a GP appointment?
Well, phhhh, yes.

Can I drink on these antibiotics? Also, my friend had a different one I’d like that one. My cough is still there, yes, at worse at night in the disco, and early morning in the gym.

Some" Bloke 17 October, 2022 6:07 pm

wellcome to out self help checkout service:
for Amoxicillin- please dial 1.
for Citalopram- dial 2.
for Ozempic- dial 3.
if you wish to speak to one of our clinical advisors, please call back tomorrow between hours of 08:30 and 08:35 so we can assist with your query. Your call is very important to us.

Patrufini Duffy 18 October, 2022 2:52 pm

Press 1 for sertraline
Press 2 for propranolol
Press 3 for antibiotics and smarties
Press 4 for alcohol and drug services
Press 5 for making it up and other hocus pocus

Andrew Jackson 19 October, 2022 7:59 am

Most of the solutions to our woes that are being put forward at the moment eg antibiotics, SAS Drs, ARRS schemes, GP apprenticeships involve completely ignoring the training that is involved in becoming a high quality GP.
I am sick and tired of policies that refuse to acknowledge I have the required skills to do this job and that it is really hard to acquire those skills.