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Busier GP practices have higher antibiotic prescribing rates, PHE study finds

GPs with a higher workload are more likely to prescribe antibiotics, according to a new study from Public Health England and the University of Manchester.

Researchers set out to understand the influential factors in primary care antibiotic prescribing and found that GP workload significantly affected prescription rates.

The study analysed anonymised data from 20m GP consultations across 690 GP practices in the UK, between 2000 and 2015.

The researchers saw that 50% of the variation in prescribing rates between practices could be explained by differences in the incidence of common infections such as respiratory tract infections and UTIs.

However, practice location, duration of GP consultation and number of GPs per thousand consultations also accounted for 40% of the variation in prescription rates.

The team noted that in busier practices – where there was a higher workload, fewer GPs per thousand consultations, or where the length of the consultation was shorter – antibiotic prescribing was higher.

PHE health protection consultant Dr William Welfare said: ‘We know that public demand for antibiotics puts pressure on GPs and we launched the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign to raise awareness of appropriate antibiotic use and to encourage behavioural change among the public.

‘PHE are working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and other health stakeholders to achieve the UK government ambition to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing by 50% by 2020.’

Lead researcher Professor Tjeerd van Staa said: ‘In order to tackle antibiotic resistance, it’s crucial that we gain a better understanding of the key factors that influence antibiotic prescribing and that identify patients at higher risk of developing infection related complications.’

The research team used a dashboard developed for the Department of Health, CCGs, local authorities and NHS England, to identify GP Practice location, time spent with patients and staff shortages. All data contained within the dashboard is anonymised and available to view here.

This comes after the latest figures found that antibiotic prescribing across primary care dropped by 13% over the last five years, with GPs being the main driver behind the drop.


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