Patient satisfaction ratings linked to antibiotic prescribing

GPs handing out fewer prescriptions for antibiotics get lower patient satisfaction ratings according to a study published in the British Journal of General Practice.

The study of 7,800 practices (with a total of 33.7 million antibiotic prescriptions issued to a registered population of 53.8 million patients) found that antibiotic prescribing volume was a "significant positive predictor of all ‘doctor satisfaction’ and ‘practice satisfaction’ scores" in the General Practice Patient Survey (GPPS) and was the strongest predictor of overall satisfaction out of 13 prescribing variables.

A theoretical 25 per cent reduction in antibiotic prescribing volume was associated with 0.5–1.0 per cent lower patient satisfaction scores, a drop of 3–6 centile points in national satisfaction ranking.

The researchers from the Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences at for Kings College London concluded: "Patients were less satisfied in practices with frugal antibiotic prescribing. A cautious approach to antibiotic prescribing may require a trade-off in terms of patient satisfaction."

Commenting on the findings, Dr Tim Ballard, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, 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, so it may be better not to prescribe.

"It’s also frustrating that GP practices that are working hard to reduce inappropriate antibiotics prescribing in order to prevent diseases becoming resistant to them face falling patient satisfaction ratings. It truly is a case of being damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

"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.

"The RCGP has highlighted the challenge that we face through resistance to antibiotics and we have developed the TARGET antibiotics toolkit, with Public Health England, to support GPs in the appropriate prescribing of antibiotics."

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