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Antibiotic resistance: don’t blame patients

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 19 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l1218
  1. Rebecca E Glover, research fellow1,
  2. Margaret Dangoor, patient representative, retired registered nurse, and past carer2,
  3. Nicholas Mays, professor of health policy1
  1. 1Department of Health Services Research and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  2. 2London
  1. rebecca.glover{at}

Blaming patients and the public for “demanding” antibiotics or putting unreasonable “pressure” on GPs is based on scant evidence

Bundled in with the worthy attempts to reduce unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics, patients are persistently mischaracterised as a barrier to reducing antibiotic resistance. They—or “we,” as we are all patients at some point—are said to be “pressuring” GPs or “demanding” antibiotics inappropriately. This alienating and blaming language continues to be reflected in the literature, government statements, and in the health service, despite being an unfair oversimplification.

The main problem with blaming patients is that the evidence does not support the narrative. Firstly, there is little evidence that patients are unreasonably pressuring GPs for antibiotics. Secondly, the UK is making good progress in reducing antibiotic prescribing in primary care.1 And, finally, senior GPs are more likely …

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