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Antimicrobial resistance increasing despite reduced GP antibiotic prescribing

Antimicrobial resistance ‘continues to increase’ despite a drop in the amount of antibiotics prescribed by GPs, a Government report has found.

The annual report, published by the Department of Health and Social Care, said that although there is increased public awareness and prescribing has decreased, antimicrobial resistance and the incidence of bloodstream infections have continued to rise.

It stressed that there is a need to ‘ensure that doctors always prescribe according to professional guidance’, but GP leaders have argued that the focus should be on the 'abuse of antibiotics in agriculture' rather than 'scapegoating GPs'.

The Government has put a number of programmes in place since the Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy launched in 2013, including bids to reduce gram-negative bloodstream infections and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in England by 50% by 2020/21.

But the 2016/17 report from the Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Prescribing, Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections found that resistance to antimicrobials, including antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals, has ‘continued to increase’.

It also highlighted that the incidence gram-negative bloodstream infections is still rising, meaning that ‘the burden of AMR as measured by the numbers of antibiotic-resistant infections continued to increase'.

The report concluded that there is an 'ongoing clear need to educate the public about using antibiotics' and to 'ensure that doctors always prescribe according to professional guidance'.

The BMA's GPC clinical and prescribing policy lead Dr Andrew Green said: ‘The rise in AMR, I'm afraid, is inevitable, as once the genes are in the environment there is no evolutionary pressure to lose them.

'All we can do is to try to slow the rate of growth, and the fact that that is not zero does not mean we should stop trying.'

West Kent GP Dr Zishan Syed, a local representative for Kent LMC, said: 'Analysis of the antibiotic crisis should surely focus on the abuse of antibiotics in agriculture rather than scapegoating GPs.

'GPs are being asked to combat sepsis which will require the use of antibiotics and are being asked to be more sepsis aware and yet they are being told in other guidelines to reduce antibiotic use. This is frankly impossible.'

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'We are making good progress. In recent years antibiotics prescriptions by GPs decreased by 13% and sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals dropped by 27%, meeting one of the Government commitments to Lord O’Neill’s Review’s recommendations two years early.' 

The findings come after the DHSC's Chief Medical Officer sent out individual letters to 9,000 GPs telling them that they are overprescribing antibiotics.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Don't blame the farmers or people who buys them abroad. Just continue to blame GPs. We need more guidance, more "over prescribing" telling offs and more negative press from the daily moan that flies against the face of evidence. It really baffles me why this country is so anti-doctors who are only trying their best to help.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Although an island that doesn’t stop hundreds of thousands of people every year coming and going in the U.K. from all over the world bringing their bacteria with them. You can buy antibiotics over the counter in much of the rest of the planet. If someone catches a new variant of influenza in China one year, it wouldn’t be unlikely that people will be going down with the same virus here within 12-18 months. Mean while antibiotics are dished out on multiple continents to chickens and cattle like a food supplement.

    And so it came to pass that some governmental genius decided U.K. GPs have played a central role in the rise of bacterial antibiotic resistance and hark the only answer was to ‘clamp down’ on these irresponsible fools. But what a shocka ...it hasn’t made the blindest bit of difference.

    Why not?...that’s the REAL question we should be asking. To be honest I haven’t got a clue.

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  • We also have to be seeps aware and 'act'appropiately in this situation using antibiotic I presume.If everybody who had sepsis according to the app on our system were admitted or put on antibiotics we would be in a right fine mess.

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  • Hospitals are terrified of "sepsis." Powerful broads spectrum stuff used if slightest doubt so as to avoid criticism in media and chase targets.

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  • The Conservative Party is dependent on Agri-business for cash.
    Its much easier to use GPs as a scapegoat.

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  • Homeopathy works in reducing AMR- used in the health care systems of the world with benefit. Just sayin'

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  • Do good @11:13
    That's 'joined up thinking' (and amusing).

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  • 85% of the world's antibiotics are used in agriculture by just 2 nations.
    We GPs, in the UK, probably use 0.01%.
    Resistance genes [ART] are found in Antarctica deep core samples bacteria, millions of years before antibiotics!![ because most of these are from nature].
    They are also found in ship ballast that is emptied in every harbour. We GPs are hardly responsible for ART. Look to pigs, chickens and kine.

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  • Clearly those lazy useless GPs have failed to do enough to curb use of antibiotics in hospitals, by farmers, Vets, Dentists, foreign travellers, and general importation from overseas by the internet. Get rid of them, and all will be well, of course.

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