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Trends in Antibiotic Prescribing in Out-of-Hours Primary Care in England from January 2016 to June 2020 to Understand Behaviours during the First Wave of COVID-19

Zhu, N. J., McLeod, M., McNulty, C. A. M. , Lecky, D. M., Holmes, A. H. & Ahmad, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-4294-7142 (2021). Trends in Antibiotic Prescribing in Out-of-Hours Primary Care in England from January 2016 to June 2020 to Understand Behaviours during the First Wave of COVID-19. Antibiotics, 10(1), article number 32. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics10010032


We describe the trend of antibiotic prescribing in out-of-hours (OOH) general practices (GP) before and during England’s first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We analysed practice-level prescribing records between January 2016 to June 2020 to report the trends for the total prescribing volume, prescribing of broad-spectrum antibiotics and key agents included in the national Quality Premium. We performed a time-series analysis to detect measurable changes in the prescribing volume associated with COVID-19. Before COVID-19, the total prescribing volume and the percentage of broad-spectrum antibiotics continued to decrease in-hours (IH). The prescribing of broad-spectrum antibiotics was higher in OOH (OOH: 10.1%, IH: 8.7%), but a consistent decrease in the trimethoprim-to-nitrofurantoin ratio was observed OOH. The OOH antibiotic prescribing volume diverged from the historical trend in March 2020 and started to decrease by 5088 items per month. Broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing started to increase in OOH and IH. In OOH, co-amoxiclav and doxycycline peaked in March to May in 2020, which was out of sync with seasonality peaks (Winter) in previous years. While this increase might be explained by the implementation of the national guideline to use co-amoxiclav and doxycycline to manage pneumonia in the community during COVID-19, further investigation is required to see whether the observed reduction in OOH antibiotic prescribing persists and how this reduction might influence antimicrobial resistance and patient outcomes.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: out-of-hours; antibiotics; antimicrobial stewardship; COVID-19
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR355 Virology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
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