GPs should not be first port of call for coughs and colds, says NICE antibiotic advice

NICE draft guidelines aimed at changing behaviour among patients and the public warn that GPs should not be the first source of advice on coughs and colds.

Coughs and colds: NICE antibiotic advice (Photo: JH Lancy)
Coughs and colds: NICE antibiotic advice (Photo: JH Lancy)

Draft NICE antibiotics guidance - the second stage of plans to tackle antibiotic resistance - stresses that a patient's GP ‘should not be the first port of call for treatment and information’ for self-limiting conditions.

Members of the public should instead be encouraged to use pharmacies and other reliable resources, such as NHS Choices, to deal with these conditions, which 'people often wrongly think require antibiotics', it says.

It also recommends national and local information campaigns to drum up public awareness on antibiotic resistance.

Map: CCG antibiotic spending

Last month NICE issued antimicrobial stewardship guidance, which recommended that GPs take a tougher line with patients who insist on inappropriate antibiotic treatment.

Senior NICE official Professor Mark Baker suggested that GPs should face sanctions if they were found to be handing out too many antibiotics, sparking an angry response from the profession.

Recommendations laid out in the antimicrobial stewardship guidance will see GPs taking much clearer notes on their antibiotic prescribing and what each dose was prescribed for, allowing themselves – and others – to review their prescribing histories and habits.

NICE antibiotics guidance

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE, said: ‘The over-use of antibiotics in the last 30 years has led to microbial resistance, and with so few new antibiotics being developed, this could result in once-treatable infections becoming fatal in years to come.

‘This new draft guideline focuses on interventions to help change people’s behaviour, and reduce antimicrobial resistance. It also aims to increase awareness, to both the public and healthcare professionals, of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, and the risks this could involve.’

Infectious diseases account for the largest number of deaths worldwide, and are a major cause of death of the very old, very young and people with chronic diseases in the UK. In 2010/11, they were responsible for 3.4m hospital bed days in England – 8% of those overall. 

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