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GPs who prescribe fewer antibiotics receive worse patient satisfaction scores

GP practices get poorer patient satisfaction scores the fewer antibiotics they prescribe, according to a study out today in the British Journal of General Practice.

Researchers from Kings College London found antibiotic prescribing volume was a major determinant of practices’ ‘GP satisfaction’ scores in the General Practice Patient Survey.

The number of antibiotics a practice prescribed also determined patients’ satisfaction with the practice as a whole, although to a lesser extent than for the GP-specific rating.

It comes as NICE has recommended GPs have their individual antibiotic prescribing monitored and reviewed at least once a year, with its lead on the issue even calling for GPs who persistently prescribe antibiotics inappropriately to be referred to the GMC and face sanctions.

However, at the same time, the Government is increasign patient scrutiny of GP practices, with the introduction of its ‘Friends and Family Test’, which asks patients to consider whether they would recommend the practice.

This latest study found that practices who prescribed fewer antibiotics in line with Government recommendations are likely to fare worse. 

The team estimated that practices prescribing 25% fewer antibiotics than the national mean could expect between 0.5% and 1.0% lower patient satisfaction scores.

Dr Mark Ashworth, who led the team from the Primary Care and Public Health Sciences department at Kings College, said: ’As practices have relatively similar satisfaction scores, this reduction in satisfaction has a bigger impact on the overall rankings, corresponding to a drop of 3-6 centile points in national satisfaction ranking.’

Dr Tim Ballard, vice chair of the RCGP, said it was ‘concerning that patients associated a prescription for antibiotics with a satisfactory visit to their GP, particularly as we know that in many cases antibiotics are not appropriate forms of treatment and could actually do more harm than good, so it may be better not to prescribe’.

Dr Ballard added it was ’frustrating that GP practices that are working hard to reduce inappropriate antibiotics prescribing in order to prevent diseases becoming resistant to them face falling patient satisfaction ratings’ and that it was ’a case of being damned if we do and damned if we don’t’.

He said: ’Public perception needs to change – our patients need to understand that when diseases become resistant to antibiotics, it means that antibiotics will cease to work and as it stands, we don’t have an alternative.’

Br J Gen Pr 2015; available online 7 December


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