GPs working long hours are up to 5 times more likely to prescribe opioids and antibiotics, study finds
- This includes GPs who are experiencing signs of burn out
- It is particularly true in more deprived areas, according to the study
- READ MORE: Revealed: ‘Militant’ leader, 28, behind junior doctors’ strike
GPs working long hours are up to five times more likely to prescribe high levels of opioids and antibiotics, a study found.
Those experiencing signs of burnout such as emotional exhaustion, feeling detached from colleagues and patients and lower job satisfaction were more likely to overprescribe medications.
This was particularly true in more deprived areas, according to the government-backed study.
University of Manchester researchers analysed UK data involving 13,483 patients on strong opioids and 26,744 patients on antibiotics between December 2019 to April 2020.
This was linked to the burnout scores of 320 GPs across 57 practices surveyed over the same four-month period.
Those experiencing signs of burnout such as emotional exhaustion, feeling detached from colleagues and patients and lower job satisfaction were more likely to overprescribe medications (stock image)
They found there was a stronger association among GPs based in more deprived areas of the North of England, with the risk being two and 1.6 times greater for increased strong opioid and antibiotic prescribing, respectively.
Increased emotional exhaustion carried a 20 per cent greater risk of overprescribing both classes of drugs.
Meanwhile those with low job satisfaction were 30 and 10 per cent more likely to hand out potentially addictive opioids and antibiotics, respectively.
Dr Alexander Hodkinson, of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) at Manchester University, said this was the first study to assess the association of prescribing of strong opioids and antibiotics with GP burnout as a practice-level problem.
‘Over a four-month period we found higher prescribing of strong opioids and antibiotics among GPs experiencing more feelings of burnout’, he said.
‘Strong opioids and antibiotic overuse can harm patients in the long-term which is why it is important to prevent their overprescribing.
‘Our findings suggest that one possible way to prevent overprescribing maybe to encourage practices to take care of the well-being of their GPs.’ They found those who intended to leave the job were 30 per cent more likely to overprescribe opioids – such as the painkiller codeine – and had a 40 per cent higher risk of giving out too many antibiotics.
Feeling detached was associated with a 10 per cent greater risk of higher strong opioid prescribing and 20 per cent antibiotics, according to the findings published in the British Journal of General Practice.
Overuse of antibiotics for trivial infections means they are becoming less effective against serious infections, meaning people are dying from previously treatable infections because the bacteria behind them have become resistant to treatment.
Details of the study come a month after the NHS revealed new guidelines designed to support GPs and pharmacists to cut opioid prescriptions by in giving patients regular personalised reviews of their medicines.
The Mail has been campaigning for greater recognition of the prescription drugs addiction crisis since March 2017.
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