Background: Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) describes activities concerned with safe-guarding antibiotics for the future, reducing drivers for the major global public health threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), whereby antibiotics are less effective in preventing and treating infections. Appropriate antibiotic prescribing is central to AMS. Whilst previous studies have explored the effectiveness of specific AMS interventions, largely from uni-professional perspectives, our literature search could not find any existing evidence evaluating the processes of implementing an integrated national AMS programme from multi-professional perspectives. Methods: This study sought to explain mechanisms affecting the implementation of a national antimicrobial stewardship programme, from multi-professional perspectives. Data collection involved in-depth qualitative telephone interviews with 27 implementation lead clinicians from 14/15 Scottish Health Boards and 15 focus groups with doctors, nurses and clinical pharmacists (n = 72) from five Health Boards, purposively selected for reported prescribing variation. Data was first thematically analysed, barriers and enablers were then categorised, and Normalisation Process Theory (NPT) was used as an interpretive lens to explain mechanisms affecting the implementation process. Analysis addressed the NPT questions 'which group of actors have which problems, in which domains, and what sort of problems impact on the normalisation of AMS into everyday hospital practice'. Results: Results indicated that major barriers relate to organisational context and resource availability. AMS had coherence for implementation leads and prescribing doctors; less so for consultants and nurses who may not access training. Conflicting priorities made obtaining buy-in from some consultants difficult; limited role perceptions meant few nurses or clinical pharmacists engaged with AMS. Collective individual and team action to implement AMS could be constrained by lack of medical continuity and hierarchical relationships. Reflexive monitoring based on audit results was limited by the capacity of AMS Leads to provide direct feedback to practitioners. Conclusions: This study provides original evidence of barriers and enablers to the implementation of a national AMS programme, from multi-professional, multi-organisational perspectives. The use of a robust theoretical framework (NPT) added methodological rigour to the findings. Our results are of international significance to healthcare policy makers and practitioners seeking to strengthen the sustainable implementation of hospital AMS programmes in comparable contexts.
- antimicrobial stewardship programme
- multi-professional perspectives
- normalisation process theory
- qualitative research