Growth in nurse prescribing of antibiotics: the Scottish experience 2007–13

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The objective of this study was to retrospectively analyse patterns of primary care antibiotic prescribing by nurse prescribers in Scotland.


Data on dispensed antibiotic prescriptions written by nurse prescribers in 2007–13 were obtained from the Prescribing Information System, a database of all NHS prescriptions dispensed in Scotland.


Since 2007, there has been a steady increase in the volume of antibiotic prescribing in primary care undertaken by nurse prescribers. There was considerable variability in the frequency of antibiotic prescribing among nurses and across NHS regions. Since 2007, an increasing proportion of antibiotics prescribed by nurses are those recommended for first-line empirical treatment of infection, with a reduction in the proportion of broader-spectrum agents. Other measures of prescribing quality (duration of treatment of adult females with urinary tract infection and use of recommended doses) have improved since 2007.


This paper is the first, to our knowledge, to present an analysis of data on antibiotic prescribing in primary care by nurse prescribers. Inappropriate prescribing is a problem and, given the impact that antibiotic prescribing has on antimicrobial resistance, it is important that the prescribing behaviour of nurses is explored. This is especially significant as this is a growing body of prescribers who predominately work in the community, where the majority of antibiotics are prescribed. This analysis showed that practice varies across NHS regions and between prescribers and although more information is needed to establish whether nurse prescribers are prescribing appropriately, some quality indicators may suggest that they are following best practice.

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