Friday, April 19News For London

Patients still want unnecessary antibiotics, even with superbugs on the rise

E.coli bacteria. Credit: NIAID
E.coli bacteria. Credit: NIAID

Patient satisfaction drops when GPs don’t give them the antibiotics they want, according to a new study.

Despite antibiotics being ineffective for most coughs and colds, GPs are still under huge pressure from patients to prescribe them.

The General Practice Patient Survey asked nearly three million adults and found that a 25% reduction in antibiotic prescription would cause a GP practise to drop by six percent in national rankings.

Patient satisfaction is taken into account when determining a GPs performance-related pay. A GP practice’s rankings also affect the amount of funding they get, meaning a drop in patient satisfaction could result in a substantial budget reduction.

The researchers from King’s College London were keen to point out that any drop in patient satisfaction from antibiotics could be made up for in other ways.

Listening to and carefully examining a patient was enough for GPs to offset the upset caused by not giving out antibiotics.

This study comes at a time when GPs are under a variety of pressures to reduce the amount of antibiotics they give out.

In August 2015, Prof. Mark Barker of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said regulators needed to deal with overprescribing doctors who failed to change their ways. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGPs) described Barker’s comments as: “counter productive and unhelpful.”

More recently, samples of E. coli, a bacteria that commonly causes food poisoning, have been found in Denmark and China that are resistant to an antibiotic called colistin.

Colistin is one of the last lines of defence against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Credit: FedEx

Dr Christopher Thomas, Professor of Molecular Genetics said of the discovery: “It is just a matter of time before worse combinations of resistance genes are likely to appear. Since colistin is one of the last resort antibiotics this is therefore very worrying.”

Colistin is a member of group of antibiotics called polymyxins and is unpopular due to its toxic effects on nerves and kidneys. However it remains in use as a last-line of defence against the so-called ‘superbugs’, bacteria that are resistant to all other antibiotics.