A cohort design was used to evaluate antibiotic prescribing in relation to patient and general practice characteristics. The study included prescribing to all subjects resident in Tayside, from January to December 1994 and found 215217 antibiotic prescriptions dispensed to 118596 people. Training status of general practitioners (GPs) was found to be the characteristic most associated with prescribing. Adjusting for other GP characteristics had little effect on these results. Training practice status was the dominant factor associated with significant differences in rates of antibiotic prescribing, in class of antibiotic prescribed and in performance indicators of antibiotic prescribing.