The Impact of Point-of-Care Blood C-Reactive Protein Testing on Prescribing Antibiotics in Out-of-Hours Primary Care: A Mixed Methods Evaluation
Dixon S., Fanshawe TR., Mwandigha L., Edwards G., Turner PJ., Glogowska M., Gillespie MM., Blair D., Hayward GN.
Improving prescribing antibiotics appropriately for respiratory infections in primary care is an antimicrobial stewardship priority. There is limited evidence to support interventions to reduce prescribing antibiotics in out-of-hours (OOH) primary care. Herein, we report a service innovation where point-of-care C-Reactive Protein (CRP) machines were introduced to three out-of-hours primary care clinical bases in England from August 2018–December 2019, which were compared with four control bases that did not have point-of-care CRP testing. We undertook a mixed-method evaluation, including a comparative interrupted time series analysis to compare monthly antibiotic prescription rates between bases with CRP machines and those without, an analysis of the number of and reasons for the tests performed, and qualitative interviews with clinicians. Antibiotic prescription rates declined during follow-up, but with no clear difference between the two groups of out-of-hours practices. A single base contributed 217 of the 248 CRP tests performed. Clinicians reported that the tests supported decision making and communication about not prescribing antibiotics, where having ‘objective’ numbers were helpful in navigating non-prescribing decisions and highlighted the challenges of training a fluctuant staff group and practical concerns about using the CRP machine. Service improvements to reduce prescribing antibiotics in out-of-hours primary care need to be developed with an understanding of the needs and context of this service.