‘Worrying reliance’ on antibiotics

A new study has called for improvements in prescribing as figures show a rising number of patients being prescribed unnecessary antibiotics.

According to the results from a study of 500 UK GP practices from 1999 to 2011, the percentage of patients given antibiotics for coughs and colds has risen by 40% despite the treatments having no proven effect.

The study, conducted by the University College London (UCL) and Public Health England (PHE), also revealed that during 2011 over 30% of patients receiving antibiotics were prescribed a treatment not recommended by national guidance.

Professor Jeremy Hawker, a consultant epidemiologist from PHE, said the study “strongly suggests that there is a need to make improvement in antibiotic prescribing”.

In response to the findings, Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the study “reinforces the message that we issued recently for front-line health professionals to   resist pressure from patients for unnecessary prescriptions and explore alternatives to them.”

Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, added: “Medical staff are on the front-line in our fight against drug resistance but everybody must act now to stop it in its tracks, including patients who put pressure on GPs to prescribe antibiotics”.