Nursery sickness policies and their influence on prescribing for conjunctivitis: audit and questionnaire survey

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Background: Acute infective conjunctivitis is common among preschool children. Public Health England (PHE) recommends that children with conjunctivitis do not need to be excluded from child care, but childcare providers are required to determine their own sickness policies and prior research suggests that children are often excluded until they are treated or have recovered. How the content of these policies impacts on prescribing decisions has not been quantified.

Aim: To assess the content of childcare providers’ sickness policies and determine the impact they have on clinicians’ prescribing.

Design and setting: An audit of childcare providers’ sickness policies and a questionnaire among primary care clinicians.

Method: Sickness policies from childcare providers across the UK were compared with PHE guidance. Clinicians completed a questionnaire on the impact that childcare provider policies have on their decision to prescribe antibiotics to preschool children with conjunctivitis.

Results: Of 164 policies examined, 86.7% excluded children with conjunctivitis and 49.4% of policies specified a requirement for antibiotics. Two-hundred clinicians completed questionnaires and 42.6% replied that they had been influenced by childcare policies when deciding whether to prescribe antibiotics in this scenario. Furthermore, 15.4% admitted that childcare policies had been the only reason they prescribed antibiotics.

Conclusion: Most of the childcare providers’ sickness policies contain requirements that are inconsistent with PHE guidance. The requirements of childcare sickness policies are likely to be resulting in unnecessary primary care consultations and thousands of prescriptions for antibiotics with little demonstrable clinical or public health benefit.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Early online date6 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Antibiotics
  • Primary Health Care
  • Child care
  • Conjunctivitis


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