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BMA holds urgent talks with NICE over antibiotics guideline

The GPC has held urgent talks with NICE, after a top official at the institute said that GPs should be reported to the GMC if they persistently prescribe antibiotics.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that the comments had ‘distracted’ from the launch of new guidance on antimicrobial stewardship that recommended GPs have their individual antibiotic prescribing monitored and reviewed at least once a year.

The guideline recommends the NHS should ‘encourage a culture’ where colleagues question one another on their antibiotic prescribing if they are ‘not in line with… guidelines and no reason is documented’.

But at a press conference to launch the guideline yesterday, Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for clinical practice at NICE, went much further, urging that the minority of ‘persistent offenders’ should face referral to the GMC and possible sanctions.

His words have been repeated today on the front pages of national newspapers and sparked fury among GPs.

The RCGP warned it could be ‘counter-productive’ to threaten hard-pressed GPs with sanctions for inappropriate prescribing.

And the BMA has said it has held urgent talks with NICE in order to clarify Professor Baker’s comments.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The BMA has met urgently with NICE today and expressed our concern at reports that GPs should face sanctions including GMC referral for “over prescribing” antibiotics.

‘This claim unfortunately has distracted from the launch of new guidance which we believe is helpful, especially as the BMA has been pushing for GPs to have better individual prescribing ‎data for some time.

‘We are pleased that following our meeting, NICE has clarified that inappropriate prescribing is not widespread amongst GPs and have made it clear that they wish to support all GPs, and not admonish them in public.’

A NICE spokesperson also sought to clarify their position, saying that they want to support GPs. He said: ‘Inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics is not in the interests of patients and contributes to antimicrobial resistance. Our new guideline is designed to help doctors make the right choices with their patients,’ said the spokesperson.

‘The great majority of GPs take care in prescribing antibiotics and for them we hope our guideline will be a useful reinforcement of their existing practice. Our recommendations are aimed at those who need to change and improve their practice.

‘We want to support, not admonish them and we are clear that our advice on good clinical practice and the professional standards responsibilities of the General Medical Council are distinct and separate.’

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