A 13% reduction in antibiotic prescribing across primary care over the last five years has been mainly driven by a drop in GP prescribing, new research has found.
Public Health England’s annual study into the use of antimicrobials showed that between 2013 and 2017 overall antibiotic prescribing in primary care fell by 13.2%. This is attributed mainly to a 13.4% reduction in GP prescribing over the same period of time, which makes up 86% of community prescribing.
Prescribing by dental practices also fell – by 24% – over the same period of time, however they contributed just 8% to prescriptions in 2017.
The figure is in contrast to a 16% increase in prescribing in other community settings since 2013, and nearly an 8% increase in prescribing in secondary care.
However, total antibiotic consumption in England fell by 6.1% between 2014 and 2017 and this was a reversal of what occurred between 2010 and 2013 when a 6% increase was noted.
The BMA’s clinical and policy prescribing lead, Dr Andrew Green, said the figures are ‘enormously encouraging’ and praised GPs for putting in the time and effort into explaining to patients why antibiotics may not be the right treatment option.
He added he was pleased that the drop in numbers has also been accompanied by more awareness among GPs to prescribe not just fewer antibiotics, but the right kind of antibiotics.
Dr Green said: ‘It’s not only the total amount that’s important, what’s also important is that the actual anti-microbials that are being chosen are in general more appropriate. So GPs are trying very hard to make sure they prescribe the antibiotic with the very least potential to cause problems.’
He added that the increase in prescriptions in secondary care is disappointing and called for a more detailed analysis of those figures.
Earlier this year, GPs were told they may have to use point-of-care diagnostics before prescribing antibiotics as part of an NHS England campaign to reduce consumption.
Primary care antibiotic prescribing
Antibiotic prescribing in primary care, 2013-2017:
- Overall reduction of 13.2%
- GPs reduced by 13.4%
- Dental practices reduced by 23.9%
- Other community settings increased by 16.4%
Antibiotic prescribing in secondary care, 2013-2017:
- Overall increase of 7.7%
Source: Public Health England