Criticism Over Calls to Discipline GPs for Over-Prescribing Antibiotics

Thursday 20th August 2015

Doctors’ leaders have criticised calls for GPs to face penalising action for the over-prescription of antibiotics as unhelpful and counter-productive.

Though the Royal College of GPs welcomed the regulation, it was not in favour of the proposal that GPs should be reported if they are discovered to be prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) around 10 million unnecessary antibiotics prescriptions are being given out each year. This is partially down to patients deliberately seeking out doctors who will prescribe medication.

Director of NICE, Professor Mark Baker, said doctors who continue to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily could be reported to the health regulator.

NICE have published guidance for pharmacists, doctors and nurses in a bit to help deal with the problem, and plans to provide patient advice in 2016.

Vice chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Tim Ballard, said that following stressful and difficult conversations with patients, doctors prescribe antibiotics even when it isn’t the most recommended course of action.

He said a collective change in attitudes towards the use of antibiotics is needed. He added that any suggestion that hard-pressed GPs (who are already trying to work in progressively complicated circumstances) should be reported to the regulator is unhelpful and counter-productive.

Dr Ballard said that if this was to happen, the General Medical Council would be consulted in support of any health professional receiving criticism or complaints about their decisions to prescribe antibiotics.

A warning has been issued by health officials about a developing ‘crisis’ of antimicrobial resistance that could affect the whole foundation of medicine, with infection being treated with surgery should drugs cease to work.

Professor Baker said a number of patients expect to be prescribed antibiotics for common health conditions such as sore throats, coughs, colds and even hayfever.

He told reporters that the majority of doctors prescribe competently and sensibly, but the ones who over-prescribe need to be identified, which is what the new guidance looks at. He also feels there should be local processes to ensure that, through education or other sanctions, they only prescribe when necessary.

Prof. Baker went on to say that if these GPs don’t comply with the guidelines, there are numerous processes the General Medical Council and the General Dental Council can use to improve practitioners’ clinical performances.

Research shows that 9 out of 10 GPs say they feel under pressure to prescribe antibiotics and 97% of patients who ask for a prescription get one.

Antibiotics have been the main way of treating infections for more than 60 years but despite the fact a new infectious disease has been discovered almost every year for the past 30 years, not many new antibiotics have been developed.

This means existing antibiotics are being used to treat a wider variety of infectious diseases and infections.

NICE said it is now down to other bodies such as NHS England and Public Health England to translate this latest guidance into tools that will bring about real action and a change in the level of antibiotic prescriptions.