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Understanding the influence of parent-clinician communication on antibiotic prescribing for children with respiratory tract infections in primary care: A qualitative observational study using a conversation analysis approach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number102
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Family Practice
Issue number1
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Jul 2019
DatePublished (current) - 19 Jul 2019


Background: Acute respiratory tract infections (RTI) in children are a common reason for antibiotic prescribing. Clinicians’ prescribing decisions are influenced by perceived parental expectations for antibiotics, however there is evidence that parents actually prefer to avoid antibiotics. This study aimed to investigate the influence of parentclinician communication on antibiotic prescribing for RTI in children in England.
Methods: A mixed methods analysis of videoed primary care consultations for children (under 12 years) with acute cough and RTI. Consultations were video-recorded in six general practices in southern England, selected for socio-economic diversity. 56 recordings were transcribed in detail and a subset of recordings and transcripts used to develop a comprehensive interaction-based coding scheme. The scheme was used to examine communication practices between parents and clinicians and how these related to antibiotic or non-antibiotic treatment strategies.
Results: Parents’ communication rarely implied an expectation for antibiotics, some explicitly offering a possible viral diagnosis. Clinicians mostly gave, or implied, a viral diagnosis and mainly recommended non-antibiotic treatment strategies. In the minority of cases where parents’ communication behaviours implied they may be seeking antibiotic treatment, antibiotics were not usually prescribed. Where clinicians did prescribe antibiotics, they voiced concern about symptoms or signs, including chest pain, discoloured phlegm, prolonged fever, abnormal chest sounds, or pink /bulging ear drums.
Conclusions: We found little evidence of a relationship between parents’ communication behaviours and antibiotic prescribing. Rather, where antibiotics were prescribed, this was associated with clinicians’ expressed concerns regarding symptoms and signs.

    Research areas

  • Antibiotics, Children, Communications, Conversation analysis, Parents, Primary care, Respiratory tract infections

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    Licence: CC BY


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