NHS Asked to Reduce Antibiotic Use

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Published: 6 Nov 2014      

Following on from David Cameron’s recent call for hospitals and researchers to begin looking into ways to develop antibiotics that can help defend against the recent strain of superbugs, the NHS has been asked to commit to a national target that will see them use fewer standard antibiotics.

The aim is to help halt the rise of antimicrobial disease, ensuring that fewer patients build up resistances to the drugs until they become useless to them.

The request, which comes from a small coalition of five UK-based health bodies, aims to reduce annual usage levels to those of 2010 while researchers examine ways to improve current antibiotics to battle against new strains of illness. The coalition itself is made up of the following five institutions:

  • The Royal Pharmaceutical Society
  • The Royal College of General Practitioners
  • The Royal College of Nurses
  • The Royal College of Physicians
  • The Faculty of Public Health

Overuse of antibiotics has been linked to the rise in resistant illnesses by a number of studies, with the current usage figure being 6% higher than that of 2010.

The coalition will hold a summit today warning against the increasing dangers of overuse of antibiotics, claiming that coordinated efforts are required to help ease the problem. It will ask the government to set national targets that will see antibiotic use reduced by 1% each year until the 2010 usage figure is reached.

The call comes on the back of a recent report published by Public Health England that both highlighted the 6% increase in antibiotic use whilst also claiming that the number of bloodstream infections that have developed a resistance has increased during the same period. Furthermore, links were made between areas that have higher rates of antibiotic prescriptions and those that have higher rates of resistant infections.

Consultant pharmacist in antimicrobials at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Phillip Howard commented “I believe we will be able to meet these challenging targets by ensuring we all use antibiotics more carefully, and by fine-tuning or stopping the antibiotic when test results are known. Where an infection is proven, we need to complete the course of antibiotics.

“This will lead to better patient care as well as reduced resistance. I believe these two aims are compatible and mutually supportive.”

Honorary secretary of the Royal College of General Practitioners Nigel Mathers added that many doctors and patients see antibiotics as a cure-all tactic against almost any infection, adding “Health professionals can face enormous pressure to prescribe them but all of our patients and the public need to be aware of the risks associated with inappropriate use of antibiotics and how to use them appropriately.”

He concluded that “It is absolutely imperative that all of us — doctors, nurses and pharmacists — work in partnership with our patients to talk about when antibiotics are necessary and when they are not required. We should also be pointing out the alternatives available to those of our patients who ask for antibiotics to treat viral illnesses.”

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