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The impact of COVID-19 on antibiotic prescribing in primary care in England

This study predicted risk factors for potentially inappropriate prescribing in primary care and how this changed during the Covid-19 pandemic

Journal of Infection, 2023



This study aimed to predict risks of potentially inappropriate antibiotic type and repeat prescribing and assess changes during COVID-19.


With the approval of NHS England, we used OpenSAFELY platform to access the TPP SystmOne electronic health record (EHR) system and selected patients prescribed antibiotics from 2019 to 2021. Multinomial logistic regression models predicted patient’s probability of receiving inappropriate antibiotic type or repeat antibiotic course for each common infection.


The population included 9.1 million patients with 29.2 million antibiotic prescriptions. 29.1% of prescriptions were identified as repeat prescribing. Those with same day incident infection coded in the EHR had considerably lower rates of repeat prescribing (18.0%) and 8.6% had potentially inappropriate type. No major changes in the rates of repeat antibiotic prescribing during COVID-19 were found. In the 10 risk prediction models, good levels of calibration and moderate levels of discrimination were found.


Our study found no evidence of changes in level of inappropriate or repeat antibiotic prescribing after the start of COVID-19. Repeat antibiotic prescribing was frequent and varied according to regional and patient characteristics. There is a need for treatment guidelines to be developed around antibiotic failure and clinicians provided with individualised patient information.

Zhong, X., Pate, A., Yang, Y.T., Fahmi, A., Ashcroft, D.M., Goldacre, B., MacKenna, B., Mehrkar, A., Bacon, S.C., Massey, J. and Fisher, L., 2023. The impact of COVID-19 on antibiotic prescribing in primary care in England: Evaluation and risk prediction of appropriateness of type and repeat prescribing. Journal of Infection, 87(1), pp.1-11.