You had to do something: prescribing antibiotics in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and remobilisation

Eilidh Duncan* (Corresponding Author), Beatriz Goulao, Janet E. Clarkson, Linda Young, Craig Ramsay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic brought about seismic change for dentistry including the direction to provide remote advice and prescribe analgesia and antimicrobials. The possibilities for care have widened, but the impact of both restrictions and remobilisation on antibiotic prescribing is not known.

Aims To report the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and remobilisation on dental antibiotic prescriptions and explore dentists' intentions and attitudes towards antibiotic prescribing.

Design and setting Public Health Scotland national prescribing and claims data are reported alongside an online survey of Scottish general and public health service dentists including closed and open-ended questions.

Results Antibiotic prescribing rose by 49% following the suspension of routine dental care, to a peak of 34,993 antibiotics (July 2020). The data also show that since the remobilisation of NHS dental care, antibiotic prescribing remains raised at levels around 28% higher than pre-pandemic. The survey highlights dentists' frustrations and concerns about this increased use of antibiotics. Most dentists intend to reduce their prescribing; however, significant challenges to this being realised were raised.

Conclusions The previous success within dentistry to protect against the development of antimicrobial resistance has suffered a knock-back during the pandemic. A renewed focus on reducing unnecessary antibiotics within dentistry is required but, crucially, needs to be approached sensitively alongside the current backdrop of challenges within the service.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Dental Journal
Early online date23 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Open access via springer agreement

Funding Information:
Ethics declaration This project is supported by the Health Foundation’s grant to the University of Cambridge for The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute. The Health Services Research Unit, Institute of Applied Health Sciences (University of Aberdeen), is core-funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates. The funders had no involvement in study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, reporting or the decision to publish. NHS Education for Scotland (NES) is an education and training body and a national health board within NHS Scotland. NES is responsible for developing and delivering healthcare education and training for the NHS, health and social care sector and other publicbod ies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


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