C-reactive protein point of care testing in community pharmacy: Observational study of a Northern Ireland pilot

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Point of care testing, C-reactive protein, Community pharmacy, Northern Ireland


Background: Whether or not to prescribe an antibiotic is a key issue for clinicians treating respiratory tract infection (RTI) in the community. Measurement of C-reactive protein (CRP) in community pharmacy may help to differentiate viral and self-limiting infections from more serious bacterial infections. Objective: To pilot POC CRP testing for suspected RTI within community pharmacy in Northern Ireland (NI). Methods: POC CRP testing was piloted in 17 community pharmacies linked to 9 general practitioner (GP) practices in NI. The service was available to adults presenting to their community pharmacy with signs and symptoms of RTI. The pilot (between October 2019 and March 2020) was stopped early due to Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19). Results: During the pilot period, 328 patients from 9 GP practices completed a consultation. The majority (60%) were referred to the pharmacy from their GP and presented with <3 symptoms (55%) which had a duration of up to 1 week (36%). Most patients (72%) had a CRP result of <20mg/L. A larger proportion of patients with a CRP test result between 20mg/L and 100mg/L and >100mg/L, were referred to the GP when compared to patients with a CRP test result of <20mg/L. Antimicrobial prescribing rates were studied in a subgroup (n=30) from 1 practice. Whilst the majority (22/30; 73%) had a CRP test result of <20mg/L, 50%, (15/30) of patients had contact with the GP in relation to their acute cough and 43% (13/30) had an antibiotic prescribed within 5 days. The stakeholder and patient survey reported positive experiences. Conclusion: This pilot was successful in introducing POC CRP testing in keeping with National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommendations for the assessment of non-pneumonic lower RTIs and both stakeholders and patients reported positive experiences. A larger proportion of patients with a possible or likely bacterial infection as measured by CRP were referred to the GP, compared to patients with a normal CRP test result. Although stopped early due to COVID-19, the outcomes provide an insight and learning for the implementation, scale up and optimization of POC CRP testing in community pharmacy in NI.


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