Writing to general practices to warn them when rates of prescriptions are too high can reduce the number of antibiotics given to patients, a new trial by Public Health England has found.
The trial, involving over 1500 general practices in England, targeted both GPs and patients. The practices were sent a letter saying ‘80% of practices in your local area prescribe fewer antibiotics per head than yours’, and were provided with three ways to make sure any antibiotics prescriptions were necessary. Patients were targeted with leaflets and posters about why reducing the use of antibiotics is important.
‘We know that drug resistant infections are one of the biggest health threats we face,’ said professor Sally Davies, the chief medical officer.
GPs who received the letter reduced their rate of antibiotic prescriptions to 127 per 1000 compared with 131 per 1000 GPs who did not receive the letter. There was no significant difference in the rate of antibiotic prescriptions in the patient group.
The trial recorded a fall of 3.3% in prescriptions over six months. This equates to around 73,000 fewer prescriptions, saving the health service as much as £92,000. The trial was part of the effort to reduce antibiotic prescribing to tackle antimicrobial resistance. The results were published in The Lancet.
‘This innovative trial has shown effective and low cost ways to reduce unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics which is essential if we are to preserve these precious medicines and help to save modern medicine as we know it,’ added Professor Davies.