Practices across England have managed to reduce antibiotic prescribing below target levels set by NHS chiefs for this financial year, official figures show.
Over 90% of CCGs are now meeting targets in overall antibiotic use in primary care, while over 80% are hitting their targets for cutting prescriptions for broad spectrum antibiotics.
NHS England said that these figures ’underline the good work of GPs’.
The two targets were introduced by NHS England as part of this year’s ’Quality Premium’ and were worth around £110,000 to each CCG.
The targets were:
- a reduction in the number of antibiotics prescribed in primary care by 1% (or greater) from each CCG’s 2013/14 value. CCGs and practices agreed the individual practice reductions.
- the number of co-amoxiclav, cephalosporins and quinolones as a percentage of the total number of selected antibiotics prescribed in primary care to be reduced by 10% from each CCG’s 2013/14 value, or to be below the 2013/14 median proportion for English CCGs (11.3%), whichever represents the smallest reduction for the CCG in question.
Latest figures available for the Quality Premium dashboard show that for December last year, 193 – 92% – of the total of 209 CCGs had met the target for overall antibiotics prescribing, with all of them showing a reduction from last year.
A total of 169 CCGs – about 81% – met the target on reducing the amount of broad spectrum antibiotics as a proportion of total use.
In all, 154 – around three-quarters of all CCGs – met both targets in December 2015.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ’These figures underline the good work of GPs in only issuing appropriate prescriptions to their patients. The new guidance has been a success in ensuring this happens everywhere and we will continue to monitor results.’
Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee, whose CCG – East Riding of Yorkshire – is among those that has met both targets – said GPs deserved the credit for the reductions in antibiotic use.
He said: ‘It is true that the highlighting of the importance of this issue has been useful, but the credit for this should go to GPs.
‘It is GPs who have spent time carefully assessing patients, explaining to them the dangers of antibiotics, and yes, sometimes facing the complaints that result.’
The drive to cut antibiotic prescribing
antibiotic resistance testing PPL
Official Public Health England surveillance data confirmed GP prescribing is the one area where antibiotic use is now falling year on year, with another drop observed between 2013 and 2014 such that levels are below those for 2011.
Despite this, GPs are set to face increasing scrutiny of antibiotic use, with the Department of Health and CQC working on bringing new antimicrobial stewardship measures into the practice inspection regime.
And Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for clinical practice at NICE, said ‘soft-touch’ GPs should face a GMC referral for ‘persistently’ prescribing the antibiotics inappropriately.