They found that the greatest reductions in antibiotic prescribing were seen for patients with sore throats, as well as in younger patients, with a 6 per cent reduction in prescribing for children.Ms Bou-Antoun said: “It is important to reduce unnecessary and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing as it is a known driver of antibiotic resistance. It’s also important to measure the impact of national interventions targeted at improving the use of antibiotics so we can evaluate and identify what is working.”Professor Alan Johnson, from the PHE Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance and Control (CIDSC), said: “As part of a national strategy to tackle antibiotic resistance, this is one of a range of successful interventions used to support GPs to reduce levels of prescribing. It is important that we continue to reduce the levels of inappropriate prescribing if we are to prevent further increases in drug-resistant infections.” GPs are doling out fewer antibiotics after being paid bonuses for cutting prescribing levels, research shows.Under the schemes, groups of doctors can receive an extra £5 for every patient on their list if they meet targets to cut antibiotic prescribing.A study by Imperial College London and Public Health England found that the financial rewards helped to reduce antibiotic prescriptions for common respiratory tract infections by three per cent.In England, respiratory tract infections (RTIs), which include coughs and sore throats, are one of the most common reasons for a visit to the GP, and GP clinics the most common setting where doctors prescribe antibiotics.However, many mild cases clear up without treatment, and the majority are caused by viruses, in which case antibiotics are ineffective as they only work against bacteria. Further research is now being undertaken to establish whether reductions in antibiotic prescribing had any negative impacts, including increased illness.The findings are published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.Health officials are attempting to cut use of antbiotics in a bid to cut the rise of drug-resistant bacteria.If these resistant bacteria cause severe infections, antibiotics may no longer work when they are needed.In this study, the team reviewed data from general practices across England, focusing on prescribing of antibiotics for uncomplicated RTIs from 2011 to 2017.Their analysis revealed that aside from the expected seasonal peaks and troughs associated with winter and summer periods, prescribing rates fell by 3 per cent, or 14.65 prescriptions per 1000 RTIs, in April 2015 – coinciding with the introduction of the incentive scheme around antibiotic prescribing. “This clinical uncertainty, along with patient anxiety regarding their infection, or their child’s, may influence the decision to prescribe antibiotics. We do however know that respiratory tract infections are commonly viral and that they are likely to resolve without antibiotic treatment and, so antibiotics are likely to offer little benefit to these patients.” It is important to reduce unnecessary and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing as it is a known driver of antibiotic resistanceSabine Bou-Antoun Professor Paul Aylin, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial, said: “This study shows that financial incentives can help to drive down the rates of antibiotic prescribing in clinical practice for non-complicated respiratory infections, particularly among children.“Antimicrobial resistance is a growing global threat. Infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat with antibiotics. As bacteria develop resistance to the drugs we use they could render many of the last line treatments we have ineffective. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. “In order to preserve these valuable treatments for years to come we must continue to promote good stewardship, ensuring antibiotics are only prescribed where they are absolutely needed.”Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security Sabine Bou-Antoun, an epidemiologist and research postgraduate at the School of Public Health at Imperial and first author of the study, said GPs are unable to identify whether an infection is caused by a bacteria or virus.She said: “In clinic, GPs have a short amount of time in which to see a patient, make a diagnosis and recommend a treatment where required.“For respiratory infections this is complicated further by unspecific symptoms and lack of a ‘point-of-care’ diagnostic tool to distinguish between a bacterial and viral respiratory infection. The schemes mean clinical commissioning groups, led by GPs, can be paid up to £5 for every patient on their list if they meet targets to cut prescribing levels.