Data released in the English surveillance programme for antimircrobial utilisation and resistance report suggest GPs have tightened control over prescribing rates as widespread resistance to antibiotics continues to rise.
GPs have previously been criticised for contributing to the growing resistance problem by prescribing antibiotics inappropriately in non-urgent cases and even for coughs and colds to placate 'pushy' patients.
The total daily defined dose (DDD) of antibiotics in general practice currently stands at 21.5 per 1,000 inhabitants per day, 4% higher than the amount prescribed in 2010.
In comparison, prescribing to hospitals inpatients has risen by 12% since 2010. The largest increase was seen in other primary care services, which jumped by 32% over the four years.
PHE flagged the rapid rise in other primary care services as a concern and suggested it required investigation. It questioned whether the spike in prescribing could have resulted from out-of-hours centres dealing with demand running over from in-hours general practice.
Prescribing rates lower in England
The figures show that the vast majority of prescribing still takes place in general practice, which was responsible for 78.5% of antibiotic prescribing. Other community prescribers, predominantly dentists, were responsible for 6.2%, while the rest were from hospitals.
Durham, Darlington and Tees had the highest consumption of antibiotics from general practice, with a prescription rate 40% higher than London.
Practices in England overall prescribed 10% fewer items than Scotland, 22% fewer than Wales and 52% fewer than Northern Ireland.
Professor John Watson, deputy chief medical officer, said: ‘Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest threats to health security facing the world today and everybody must take action.
‘We want to support all doctors and other prescribers in reducing their prescribing rates where possible. These data will play an important part in highlighting regional variations in prescribing.’
Recent research has shown that one in seven courses of antibiotic treatment prescribed by GPs fails due to resistance.