Researchers from King’s College London have found that GPs dishing out fewer antibiotics are rating lower on patient satisfaction, indicating that a significant shift in public perception is still needed to help curb their use and pull back the rise of antimicrobial resistance.

The study, findings of which are published in the British Journal of General Practice, looked at records from 7,800 general practices and found a 25 percent lower rate of antibiotic prescribing by a GP practice corresponded to a five-to-six point reduction on the NHS GP Patient Survey.

After taking into account demographic and practice factors, antibiotic prescribing was a significant determinant of patient experience, the researchers said, noting that “GPs who are frugal in their antibiotic prescribing may need support to maintain patient satisfaction”.

“Although small-scale studies have shown that dissatisfaction about not receiving an antibiotic can be offset if the patient feels that they have been listened to or carefully examined, further research is needed to determine if this will help in the real world of busy GP practices,” said Mark Ashworth, GP and lead author of the study from the King’s Division of Health and Social Care Research.

A study by Public Health England recently found that as many as 51% of patients are inappropriately prescribed an antibiotic by their GP for coughs and colds, for which antibiotics are completely ineffective, fuelling the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

Tim Ballard, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it’s frustrating that 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…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,” he stressed.

In Europe alone, infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria are estimated to kill 25,000 people every year, but it is feared that 10 million people could be dying every year by 2050 because of AMR if current use isn’t curbed significantly.