A Cross-Sectional Study of Antibiotic Prescribing for Childhood Upper Respiratory Tract Infections in Irish General Practice

Introduction This study aimed to analyse antibiotic prescribing in cases of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) in children under 6 years attending Irish daytime and out-of-hours General Practice (GP) services. There have been large scale changes in entitlements for free GP care for this group in recent years. Methods A cross-sectional study of children under 6 years with URTI presentations was performed, over a two-week period for three years from 2015 to 2017. Factors associated with antibiotic prescription and preferred antibiotic compliance were examined using multivariate logistic regression. Results 1,007 Under-6 patients presented with an URTI in our sample over the study period. Following introduction of free GP care, patients were 50% less likely to receive an antibiotic prescription. Overall antibiotic prescribing fell from 70% to 50% in daytime services and from 72% to 60% in the out-of-hours setting. Patients presenting to out-of-hours services were more likely to receive an antibiotic (OR: 1.42) and less likely to receive a deferred antibiotic (OR: 0.53). One quarter to one third of all prescriptions were for deferred antibiotics. Year-on-year trends showed a 13% decrease in prescriptions and 13% increase in preferred antibiotic use. Conclusion The introduction of free GP care led to significant reductions in antibiotic prescribing, which may be due to changes in health seeking behaviour by parents or other reasons. Antibiotic prescribing was more commonplace in the out-of-hours setting, and rates remains high by international standards. This study underlines the importance of ongoing work around GP antimicrobial stewardship, particularly in the out-of-hours setting.