BMJ Qual Improv Report 6: doi:10.1136/bmjquality.u211706.w4738
  • BMJ Quality Improvement Programme

Improving antimicrobial prescribing practice for sore throat symptoms in a general practice setting

  1. Kamal Hussain
  1. Harrow CCG, London, UK


Acute sore throat is a common presentation in primary care settings. We aimed to improve our compliance with national antibiotic guidelines for sore throat symptoms to 90% in 3 months' time period. The national guidelines are based on Centor criteria. A retrospective audit of 102 patient records with sore throat symptoms presenting between 1 January to 30 December 2015 showed that over 50% were given antibiotics. Those who were prescribed antibiotics, 27% did not meet NICE criteria and 85% of patients were given immediate antibiotic prescription. Centor criteria was documented in just 2% of cases. Compliance with correct antibiotic course length was 15%. Antibiotic choice and dose was correct in 94% and 92% of cases respectively. Antibiotic frequency was correctly prescribed in 100% of patients.

We introduced interventions that included oral and poster presentations to multidisciplinary team, dissemination of guidelines through internal e-mail and systemic changes to GP electronic patient record system EMIS. This involved creating an automated sore throat template and information page. On re-auditing of 71 patients, after two PDSA cycles, compliance with NICE criteria was 87% with a significant reduction in immediate prescribing (66%). Centor criteria documentation was 42%. Correct antibiotic course length was prescribed in over 30% of cases. Other antibiotic regimen parameters (choice, dose and frequency) were correct in 100% of cases.

The initial results demonstrated that significant changes were needed. In particular, reducing the amount of antibiotics prescribed by increasing compliance with NICE criteria and ensuring all parameters of antibiotic prescription were correct. We showed that significant sustainable improvement is achievable through carefully devised automated systemic changes that provides critical information in readily accessible format, and does not solely rely on prescribers' knowledge and initiative. The outcome of these interventions are a decrease in immediate antibiotic prescription, significant increase in Centor criteria documentation and an increase in compliance with the correct course length of antibiotics. All these measures would contribute to reduction in antimicrobial resistance and improvement in patient care in the community. Future work must focus on improving compliance with correct antibiotic course length.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: