Background: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is high on the UK public health policy agenda, and poses challenges to patient safety and the provision of health services. Widespread prescribing of antibiotics is thought to increase AMR, and mostly takes place in primary medical care. However, prescribing rates vary substantially between general practices. The aim of this study was to understand contextual factors related to general practitioners’ (GPs) antibiotic prescribing behaviour in low, high, and around the mean (medium) prescribing primary care practices. Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 41 GPs working in North-West England. Participants were purposively sampled from practices with low, medium, and high antibiotic prescribing rates adjusted for the number and characteristics of patients registered in a practice. The interviews were analysed thematically. Results: This study found that optimizing antibiotic prescribing creates tensions for GPs, particularly in doctor- patient communication during a consultation. GPs balanced patient expectations and their own decision-making in their communication. When not prescribing antibiotics, GPs reported the need for supportive mechanisms, such as regular practice meetings, within the practice, and in the wider healthcare system (e.g. longer consultation times). In low prescribing practices, GPs reported that increasing dialogue with colleagues, having consistent patterns of prescribing within the practice, supportive practice policies, and enough resources such as consultation time were important supports when not prescribing antibiotics. Conclusions: Insight into GPs’ negotiations with patient and public health demands, and consistent and supportive practice-level policies can help support prudent antibiotic prescribing among primary care practices.
- Antibiotic prescribing
- Attitudes of health care personnel
- Primary health care
- Qualitative research
- Shared decision making