Most antibiotics are prescribed in primary care. Locum or sessional GPs (locums) are perceived as contributing to higher prescribing and may face barriers to engaging with antimicrobial stewardship (AMS).
To identify how locums’ antibiotic prescribing compares with other general practice prescribers, and how they perceive their role in antibiotic prescribing and AMS.
Design and setting
Mixed-methods study in primary care.
Data on antibiotic prescribing, diagnoses, and patient and prescriber characteristics were extracted from The Health Improvement Network database. A mixed-effects logistic model was used to compare locums’ and other prescribers’ antibiotic prescribing for conditions that do not usually benefit from antibiotics. Nineteen semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with locums in England and analysed thematically.
Locums accounted for 11% of consultations analysed. They prescribed antibiotics more often than other GPs and nurse prescribers for acute cough, sore throat, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations, and acute bronchitis. The number of patients receiving antibiotics for these conditions was 4% higher (on absolute scale) when consulting with locums compared with when they consulted with other GPs. Four themes capture the perceived influences on prescribing antibiotics and AMS: antibiotic prescribing as a complex but individual issue, nature and patterns of locum work, relationships between practices and locums, and professional isolation.
Locums contribute to higher antibiotic prescribing compared with their peers. They experience challenges but also opportunities for contributing to AMS, which should be better addressed. With an increasing proportion of locums in general practice, they have an important role in antibiotic optimisation and AMS.