Background: The Quality Premium (QP) was introduced for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England to optimize antibiotic prescribing, but it remains unclear how it was implemented.
Objectives: To understand responses to the QP and how it was perceived to influence antibiotic prescribing.
Methods: Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 22 CCG and 19 general practice professionals. Interviews were analysed thematically.
Results: The findings were organized into four categories. (i) Communication: this was perceived as unstructured and infrequent, and CCG professionals were unsure whether they received QP funding. (ii) Implementation: this was influenced by available local resources and competing priorities, with multifaceted and tailored strategies seen as most helpful for engaging general practices. Many antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) strategies were implemented independently from the QP, motivated by quality improvement. (iii) Mechanisms: the QP raised the priority of AMS nationally and locally, and provided prescribing targets to aim for and benchmark against, but money was not seen as reinvested into AMS. (iv) Impact and sustainability: the QP was perceived as successful, but targets were considered challenging for a minority of CCGs and practices due to contextual factors (e.g. deprivation, understaffing). CCG professionals were concerned with potential discontinuation of the QP and prescribing rates levelling off.
Conclusions: CCG and practice professionals expressed positive views of the QP and associated prescribing targets and feedback. The QP helped influence change mainly by raising the priority of AMS and defining change targets rather than providing additional funding. To maximize impact, behavioural mechanisms of financial incentives should be considered pre-implementation.
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