Skip to content

Antibiotic Review Kit for Hospitals (ARK-Hospital): study protocol for a stepped wedge cluster randomized controlled trial

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  • Ann Sarah Walker
  • Eric Budgell
  • Magda Laskawiec-Szkonter
  • Katy Sivyer
  • Sarah Wordsworth
  • Jack Quaddy
  • Marta Santillo
  • Adele Krusche
  • Laurence S.J. Roope
  • Nicole Bright
  • Fiona Mowbray
  • Nicola Jones
  • Kieran Hand
  • Najib Rahman
  • Melissa Dobson
  • Emma Hedley
  • Derrick Crook
  • Mike Sharland
  • Chris Roseveare
  • F. D.Richard Hobbs
  • Chris Butler
  • Louella Vaughan
  • Susan Hopkins
  • Lucy Yardley
  • Timothy E.A. Peto
  • Martin J. Llewelyn
Original languageEnglish
Article number421 (2019)
Number of pages16
Issue number1
DateAccepted/In press - 1 Jun 2019
DatePublished (current) - 11 Jul 2019


Background: To ensure patients continue to get early access to antibiotics at admission, while also safely reducing antibiotic use in hospitals, one needs to target the continued need for antibiotics as more diagnostic information becomes available. UK Department of Health guidance promotes an initiative called 'Start Smart then Focus': early effective antibiotics followed by active 'review and revision' 24-72 h later. However in 2017, < 10% of antibiotic prescriptions were discontinued at review, despite studies suggesting that 20-30% of prescriptions could be stopped safely. Methods/design: Antibiotic Review Kit for Hospitals (ARK-Hospital) is a complex 'review and revise' behavioural intervention targeting healthcare professionals involved in antibiotic prescribing or administration in inpatients admitted to acute/general medicine (the largest consumers of non-prophylactic antibiotics in hospitals). The primary study objective is to evaluate whether ARK-Hospital can safely reduce the total antibiotic burden in acute/general medical inpatients by at least 15%. The primary hypotheses are therefore that the introduction of the behavioural intervention will be non-inferior in terms of 30-day mortality post-admission (relative margin 5%) for an acute/general medical inpatient, and superior in terms of defined daily doses of antibiotics per acute/general medical admission (co-primary outcomes). The unit of observation is a hospital organisation, a single hospital or group of hospitals organised with one executive board and governance framework (National Health Service trusts in England; health boards in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland). The study comprises a feasibility study in one organisation (phase I), an internal pilot trial in three organisations (phase II) and a cluster (organisation)-randomised stepped-wedge trial (phase III) targeting a minimum of 36 organisations in total. Randomisation will occur over 18 months from November 2017 with a further 12 months follow-up to assess sustainability. The behavioural intervention will be delivered to healthcare professionals involved in antibiotic prescribing or administration in adult inpatients admitted to acute/general medicine. Outcomes will be assessed in adult inpatients admitted to acute/general medicine, collected through routine electronic health records in all patients. Discussion: ARK-Hospital aims to provide a feasible, sustainable and generalisable mechanism for increasing antibiotic stopping in patients who no longer need to receive them at 'review and revise'. Trial registration: ISRCTN Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN12674243. Registered on 10 April 2017.

Additional information

Trial Registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN12674243 (10 April 2017) Primary funding National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Programme Grants for Applied Research Programme (Reference Number RP-PG-0514-20015) Sponsor University of Oxford

    Research areas

  • Antibiotic prescribing, Hospitals, Antimicrobial stewardship

    Structured keywords

  • Physical and Mental Health

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (final published version)

    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Springer Nature at Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Final published version, 1.4 MB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY

  • Supplementary information PDF

    Final published version, 136 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups