Analysis of the use of antibiotics by AWaRe categories during the COVID-19 pandemic in hospitals across Scotland: a national population-based study

Euan Proud, Tanja Mueller, Karen Gronkowski, Amanj Kurdi, Niketa Platt, Aidan Morrison, Marion Bennie, William Malcolm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The Access, Watch and Reserve (AWaRe) list of antibiotics was developed by the WHO to support antibiotic stewardship programmes (ASP). The Access group incorporates first-line options, while Watch antibiotics have higher resistance potential or toxicity, and Reserve drugs should be used only for complex infections. ASP implementation has been challenged during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a knowledge gap regarding in-hospital prescribing patterns of antibiotics nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the characteristics of hospitalised patients prescribed antibiotics during this time. We aimed to evaluate quality of antibiotic use according to AWaRe classification in Scottish hospitals, including assessing the impact of COVID-19 on trends. Methods: Cross-sectional study of antibiotics prescribed to hospitalised patients from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2022 in a selection of Scottish hospitals, covering approximately 60% (3.6 million people) of the Scottish population. Data were obtained from the Hospital Electronic Prescribing and Medicines Administration system. Prescribing trends were explored over time, by age and by sex. Results: Overall, a total 1 353 003 prescriptions were identified. An increase in Access antibiotics was found from 55.3% (31 901/57 708) to 62.3% (106 449/170 995) over the study period, alongside a decrease in Watch antibiotics from 42.9% (24 772/57 708) to 35.4% (60 632/170 995). Reserve antibiotic use was limited throughout, with minor changes over time. Changes in prescribing were most pronounced in the older age group (>65 years): proportions of Access antibiotics increased from 56.4% (19 353/34 337) to 65.8% (64 387/97 815, p<0.05), while Watch antibiotics decreased from 41.9% (14 376/34 337) to 32.3% (31 568/97 815, p<0.05) between Q1 2019 and Q2 2022. Differences between males and females were insignificant. Conclusions: Findings showed encouraging trends in Access and Watch use among hospitalised patients, in line with Scottish national standards. There was no noteworthy effect of COVID-19 on prescribing trends despite reports indicating stewardship programmes being negatively impacted by the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Hospital Pharmacy
Early online date6 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • antibiotic stewardship
  • COVID-19
  • prescribing patterns


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