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Practices still face patient complaints over antibiotics prescriptions

by Valeria Fiore
9 February 2018

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Patients are still frustrated when they are denied antibiotics, a Medical Protection Society (MPS) survey of 500 GPs has found.

Almost a third (32%) of GPs said that they frequently deal with patients who get angry or frustrated when they are advised that they do not need to take antibiotics.

It comes after Public Health England (PHE) launched a ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign at the end of October 2017, to raise awareness about the higher risks of infections patients could suffer if taking antibiotics inappropriately.

As part of the campaign, PHE made leaflets and posters available for use at GP surgeries.

About 70% of respondents said they found the campaign useful.

An anonymous GP said: ‘Please carry on with these campaigns as we cannot do it without backup. It is easier to deflect requests if there is information out there.’

However, the MSU survey showed that 60% of GPs decided to prescribe antibiotics to patients when they get angry or frustrated, to avoid confrontation or a complaint, with 4% of them saying they frequently recur to this measure.

Senior medicolegal adviser at MPS Dr Marika Davies said: ‘Prescribing when it is not considered appropriate is not in the best interests of the patient and could put a GP at risk of criticism.

‘Good communication and management of patient expectations can help in dealing with these situations.  But unfortunately we recognise that some patients will not accept this and will become angry or frustrated when they do not get the treatment they want.

‘It is understandable that some GPs feel pressurised into prescribing against their better judgment, but GPs should feel confident to refuse to prescribe in these situations.’

As Management in Practice previously reported, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to patient safety worldwide and to help tackle the problem NHS England promised 10% of the Quality Premium, £80,000, to CCGs who met a 1% reduction target.

Patients still ‘too focussed on antibiotics’ 

Practice manager at Abbey Medical Centre in Kenilworth, Warwickshire Ryan Smith said: ‘I think public opinion as a whole is still too focussed on antibiotics, even though Public Health England has launched a campaign to stop that.

‘We have regular clinical meetings every two weeks and we have a look at the antibiotics that were prescribed. We look at our clinicians who are over-prescribing and at the reasons why they are doing so. This leads to consultations on how to have better conversations with patients and advise them when they actually don’t need antibiotics.’