RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard criticised the video last week, calling it 'profoundly unhelpful' in the fight against inappropriate use of antibiotics.
The suggestion that GPs would readily hand out antibiotics for a sore throat risked undermining the professionalism of general practice, she added.
The 19-second video, which appeared on the Babylon GP at Hand website's homepage, showed a patient using the video consultation service to contact her doctor via a smartphone. The patient complained of a ‘really sore throat’ and the GP quickly offered 'a prescription for some penicillin'.
Responding on Twitter after GPonline reported on the RCGP's concerns about the video, Babylon Health - the private company behind the service - said it did not want to 'give people the wrong message about antibiotics' and that there were 'better ways to show how our service works'.
Thanks for raising this! We agree there are better ways to show how our service works & we don't want people to get the wrong message about antibiotics. @GPatHand takes #AntimicrobialResistance seriously & has low antibiotic prescribing rates, as shown by https://t.co/MIypkTrHTG— Babylon (@babylonhealth) December 14, 2018
The company has now removed the video from its website.
In an initial response before the video was taken down, a spokesperson for Babylon said: ‘Babylon GP at Hand is prescribing appropriately and helping fight against antimicrobial resistance. We’ve been working hard to ensure we’re prescribing appropriately through regular audit and peer learning, made possible by recording all digital appointments, and by carefully managing clinical workloads.’
Professor Stokes-Lampard told GPonlinelast week that GPs had been working hard to get the message across to patients that 'antibiotics are not a "cure all" for every ailment - and most sore throats will get better on their own after a few days'.
She told this website: ‘Whatever the intent of this video may be, it certainly isn’t useful to show a patient so easily able to access antibiotics - particularly for a condition for which antibiotics are usually inappropriate.’
The RCGP chair added that growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a ‘real and dangerous issue to us all’, and argued that the video gave an unfair representation of GPs at a time when they are working hard to reduce prescriptions for antibiotics.
Public Health England's (PHE's) national Keep Antibiotics Working campaign aims to ‘reduce inappropriate prescriptions for antibiotics by raising awareness of the issue of antibiotic resistance and reducing demand from the public’. The campaign highlights sore throats as a ‘common illness’ which ‘usually gets better by itself’ without any need for antibiotics.
NICE guidance on sore throats released earlier this year advised GPs that ‘antibiotics are not an effective treatment for the majority of sore throats’, and that patients should instead be given paracetamol or ibuprofen.