North Staffordshire doctors told: 'Stop handing out pills'
DOCTORS in North Staffordshire face a crackdown on prescribing antibiotics after it emerged they dish out more of the drugs than medics anywhere else in the West Midlands.
GPs in Hanley's health and well-being centre in Stafford Street have been singled out as the worst offenders.
But between a third and a half of the near-100 surgeries in the area are missing regional targets to reduce the use of the pills.
Scientists have realised that humans are slowly becoming immune to antibiotics, leading to fears that deadly superbugs such as MRSA and C.Difficile coud thrive.
All GPs can do to tackle the problem is limit the amount of antibiotics they prescribe.
However, according to the Department of Health, more than 10,000 courses of antibiotics a year are needlessly handed to North Staffordshire patients even though they have no effect on infections such as flu or tonsilitis.
Now teams from the new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – due to take over the area's NHS in April – are to visit the doctors in the next few weeks to try and tackle the problem.
The move comes as latest figures show that between last April and December, 50 patients were treated for C.Difficile at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
Of the 53 practices in Stoke-on-Trent, antibiotic over-prescribing is highest in Hartshill, Stoke, Fenton, Longton and Meir, where half the practices missed the West Midlands target.
In the locality covering Cobridge, Smallthorne and Baddeley Green, 44 percent had breached it and in Middleport, Birches Head and Hanley, 37 percent were giving too many out. No figures have yet been issued for Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands which are under a different CCG.
Manir Hussain, CCG head of medicine management, said: "Our antibacterial over-prescribing is the worst in the West Midlands.
"We are trying to make a difference but it isn't something we will turn round overnight.
"It has always been high and while it has been coming down over the years, the trend has started to go up again.
"We now have an action plan which I am confident will get it back on track.
"It involves tracking individual prescribing trends and then to prepare a plan of intervention."
Drug experts say the problem is usually worst in areas with most single-handed practices where doctors can feel under pressure from patients – even though they know the tablets will have no effect.
The south of the city has the highest number of one-GP surgeries in North Staffordshire.
Sean Woodward, North Staffordshire board member on the council of the National Pharmacy Association, said: "There used to be an issue with over-prescribing going on on Friday afternoons to stop patients calling doctors out over the weekend but that has now been tackled.
"And then practices could give them to people with tonsillitis to try to prevent them being referred to hospital ear, nose and throat departments at a cost of £250 to them.
"We are all working hard to address the whole issue and although these regional targets appear to be being missed in North Staffordshire, the position is still much better than a few years ago."