BACKGROUND: Trials have shown that delayed antibiotic prescriptions (DPs) and point-of-care C-Reactive Protein testing (POC-CRPT) are effective in reducing antibiotic use in general practice, but these were not typically implemented in high-prescribing practices. We aimed to explore views of professionals from high-prescribing practices about uptake and implementation of DPs and POC-CRPT to reduce antibiotic use. METHODS: This was a qualitative focus group study in English general practices. The highest antibiotic prescribing practices in the West Midlands were invited to participate. Clinical and non-clinical professionals attended focus groups co-facilitated by two researchers. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. RESULTS: Nine practices (50 professionals) participated. Four main themes were identified. Compatibility of strategies with clinical roles and experience - participants viewed the strategies as having limited value as 'clinical tools', perceiving them as useful only in 'rare' instances of clinical uncertainty and/or for those less experienced. Strategies as 'social tools' - participants perceived the strategies as helpful for negotiating treatment decisions and educating patients, particularly those expecting antibiotics. Ambiguities - participants perceived ambiguities around when they should be used, and about their impact on antibiotic use. Influence of context - various other situational and practical issues were raised with implementing the strategies. CONCLUSIONS: High-prescribing practices do not view DPs and POC-CRPT as sufficiently useful 'clinical tools' in a way which corresponds to the current policy approach advocating their use to reduce clinical uncertainty and improve antimicrobial stewardship. Instead, policy attention should focus on how these strategies may instead be used as 'social tools' to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use. Attention should also focus on the many ambiguities (concerns and questions) about, and contextual barriers to, using these strategies that need addressing to support wider and more consistent implementation.
BMC Fam Pract
Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, Antimicrobial stewardship, Back-up prescription, Focus groups, General practice, Point-of-care testing