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Understanding the delayed prescribing of antibiotics for respiratory tract infection in primary care: a qualitative analysis
  1. R Ryves1,
  2. C Eyles1,
  3. M Moore1,
  4. L McDermott2,
  5. P Little1,
  6. G M Leydon1
  1. 1Department of Primary Care & Population Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  2. 2Department of Primary Care & Population Health Sciences, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr GM Leydon; gerry{at}


Objective To identify general practitioner (GP) views and understanding on the use of delayed prescribing in primary care.

Design Qualitative semistructured telephone interview study.

Setting Primary care general practices in England.

Participants 32 GPs from identified high-prescribing and low-prescribing general practices in England.

Method Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with GPs identified from practices within clinical commissioning groups with the highest and lowest prescribing rates in England. A thematic analysis of the data was conducted to generate themes.

Results All GPs had a good understanding of respiratory tract infection (RTI) management and how the delayed prescribing approach could be used in primary care. However, GPs highlighted factors that were influential as to whether delayed prescribing was successfully carried out during the consultation. These included the increase in evidence of antimicrobial resistance, and GPs' prior experiences of using delayed prescribing during the consultation. The patient–practitioner relationship could also influence treatment outcomes for RTI, and a lack of an agreed prescribing strategy within and between practices was considered to be of significance to GPs. Participants expressed that a lack of feedback on prescribing data at an individual and practice level made it difficult to know if delayed prescribing strategies were successful in reducing unnecessary consumption. GPs agreed that coherent and uniform training and guidelines would be of some benefit to ensure consistent prescribing throughout the UK.

Conclusions Delayed prescribing is encouraged in primary care, but is not always implemented successfully. Greater uniformity within and between practices in the UK is needed to operationalise delayed prescribing, as well as providing feedback on the uptake of antibiotics. Finally, GPs may need further guidance on how to answer the concerns of patients without interpreting these questions as a demand for antibiotics, as well as educating the patient about antimicrobial resistance and supporting a good patient–practitioner relationship.

  • Antibiotics
  • Respiratory Tract Infection
  • Prescribing

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  • Contributors GML conceived the idea of the study and was responsible for all aspects of the study including design, data interpretation and manuscript preparation. RR was responsible for leading the data collection and analysis, and preparation of the manuscript. CE was involved in the preparation of the study design and ethics submission, data analysis and interpretation of results and manuscript preparation and revisions. LM, PL and MM were involved in the generation of the study idea, design, interpretation and manuscript comments and revisions.

  • Funding This work was supported by the National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research (NIHR SPCR) grant 197.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University of Southampton Faculty of Medicine Ethics on 7 October 2013.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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