Objectives: To evaluate the effect of general practice-level prescribing feedback on antibiotic prescribing in a real-world pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial.
Methods: Three hundred and forty general practices in four territorial Health Boards in NHS Scotland were randomized in Quarter 1, 2016 to receive four quarterly antibiotic-prescribing feedback reports or not, from Quarter 2, 2016 to Quarter 1, 2017. Reports included different clinical topics, benchmarking against national and health board rates, and behavioural messaging with improvement actions. The primary outcome was total antibiotic prescribing rate. There were 16 secondary prescribing outcomes and 5 hospital admission outcomes (potential adverse effects of reduced prescribing). The main evaluation timepoint was 1 year after the final report (Quarter 1, 2018), with an additional evaluation in the quarter after the final report (Quarter 2, 2017). Routine administrative NHS data were used to generate the feedback reports and analyse the effects.
Results: Total antibiotic prescribing rates were lower at the main evaluation timepoint in both intervention (1.83 versus baseline 1.93 prescriptions/1000 patients/day) and control (1.90 versus baseline 1.98) practices, with no evidence of intervention effect [adjusted rate ratio (ARR) 0.98 (95% CI 0.94-1.02; P = 0.35)]. At the additional timepoint, adjusted total antibiotic prescribing rates were 1.67 and 1.73 prescriptions/1000 patients/day, with evidence of a small intervention effect, ARR 0.99 (0.98-1.00; P = 0.03).
Conclusions: This well-designed, practice-level antibiotic-prescribing feedback had limited evidence of additional effects in the context of decreasing antibiotic prescribing and an established national stewardship programme.