Doctors in England 'Dramatically' Reduce Antibiotic Prescriptions

A pharmacy manager counts antibiotic pills, 2007. GPs have given out fewer antibiotics in the past year. Joe Raedle/Getty

GPs in England have "dramatically" reduced the number of antibiotics they give to patients, latest figures show.

NHS Improvement says prescriptions for all types of antibiotic were down by more than 2.6 million on the previous year to about 34 million in 2015 to 2016. They say it is a "fantastic result" and shows doctors are being careful not to over-prescribe them.

It is part of a wider drive to stop harmful infections developing resistance to antibiotics. In the U.K., 80 percent of antibiotic prescribing occurs outside hospital. Half of these prescriptions are to treat chest infections.

Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections and there is no point in prescribing them if the cause of illness is a virus, such as the flu.

The government has offered a financial incentive to get GPs to cut down on their prescribing and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) get a Quality Premium payment if family doctors hit the target.