Cutting antibiotic prescribing lowers GP satisfaction scores, study shows

Antibiotic prescribing volume is a positive predictor of doctor and practice satisfaction, with practices that prescribe fewer antibiotics receiving lower satisfaction scores in the GP Patient Survey, research reveals.

Patients report higher satisfaction in practices that prescribe antibiotics in greater volumes, a study published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) has shown.

A team of GP researchers analysed data obtained from the 2012 GP Patient Survey, covering responses from 7,800 practices.

They found that patients were less satisfied in practices with ‘frugal antibiotic prescribing’, concluding that practices working to cut antibiotic prescribing should expect a trade-off in terms of patient satisfaction.

Practices prescribing 25% fewer antibiotics than the national mean could expect to have patient satisfaction scores an estimated 0.5% to 1.0% lower, they said, suggesting that pleasing the patient ‘is not always consistent with providing good-quality care’.

Antibiotic satisfaction

RCGP vice chairman Dr Tim Ballard said the ‘concerning’ results showed GPs were ‘damned if we do and damned if we don’t’.

‘Patients want to feel as though they are taking something away from their GP appointment, especially as in many cases, they will have had to wait a long time to secure one – and family doctors are under pressure to prescribe accordingly,’ he said.

‘It’s concerning that patients associate a prescription for antibiotics with a satisfactory visit to their GP, particularly as we know that in many cases antibiotics are not appropriate forms of treatment and could actually do more harm than good.

‘Public perception needs to change – our patients need to understand that when diseases become resistant to antibiotics, it means that antibiotics will cease to work and as it stands, we don't have an alternative.’

Photo: M.W. Georgios

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