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Independents' Day

Government pledges to cut antibiotic prescribing by a ‘further 15%’

The amount of antibiotics prescribed to patients must be reduced by a ‘further 15%’, the Government announced today.

This target comes as part of the UK 20-year vision for antimicrobial resistance and the new five year plan - announced by health secretary Matt Hancock - which aim to control antimicrobial resistance by 2040.

The plan also involves creating a new payment model for pharmaceutical companies, so they are paid based on how valuable the medicines are to the NHS, with the aim of incentivising them to invest in drugs that treat high priority resistant infections.

The new ambitions, which cover both animal and human health, also include:

  • Harnessing real-time patient data to help clinicians understand when to use and preserve antibiotics
  • A major drive to reduce healthcare associated Gram-negative blood stream infections such as e-coli, reducing the actual number of resistant infections, and supporting clinicians to prescribe appropriately
  • Cutting the number of drug-resistant infections by 10% – 5000 infections – by 2025 and prevent at least 15,000 patients from contracting infections as a result of their healthcare each year by 2024
  • Reducing the use of antibiotics in animals by 25% between 2016 and 2020, with objectives to be refreshed by 2021

Since 2014, the UK has cut the amount of antibiotics it uses by more than 7%, with sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals dropping by 40%.

In 2016 PHE announced GP antibiotic prescribing had decreased by 6% over three years, although research commissioned by the body stated that between 8% and 23% of all antibiotic prescriptions in primary care were still inappropriate - leading to PHE saying this number was as 'at least' 20% and setting a target to cut it in half.

Speaking today at the World Economic Forum at Davos health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘The UK has taken a global lead by setting out a 20 year AMR vision explaining the steps we must take nationally and internationally to rise to this challenge.'

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, we will reduce the use of antibiotics by a further 15%, through offering patients access to new treatments and using more accurate e-prescribing, as well as acting earlier to prevent ill health developing in the first place.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard welcomed the plan, which she said makes it clear that GPs cannot be ‘held responsible’ for tackling this issue on their own.

She said: ‘GPs are already making excellent headway in reducing antibiotic use in the community and will only prescribe when they are absolutely necessary and the best course of action for the patient sitting in front of us.

‘However, as this national action plan highlights, this is a society-wide issue and not something GPs can be held responsible for tackling on their own.’

Lord O’Neill, who led the Government-commissioned review on antimicrobial resistance, said: ‘I am pleased to see the Government’s ambition particularly on trialling a new model for antibiotics and I'd love to see pharmaceutical companies rise to the challenge.

‘I also would be eager to observe some step change in the use of diagnostics to reduce unnecessary use.’

Last year, Pulse learned a new scheme launched by NHS England could involve GPs being told to use point-of-care testing before prescribing antibiotics. 

Readers' comments (8)

  • David Banner

    Increasing antibiotic resistance led to an increase in cases of sepsis. If GPs miss sepsis they face GMC/prosecution/prison. Thus many GPs prescribe fig leaf amoxicillin as a career saving insurance policy against this.
    If you seriously want GPs to prescribe fewer antibiotics, take the threat of prosecution off the table, otherwise expect more defensive medicine, more antibiotic prescribing, and more deaths from sepsis.

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  • ItSaDoGsLiFe

    She said: ‘GPs are already making excellent headway in reducing antibiotic use in the community and will only prescribe when they are absolutely necessary and the best course of action for the patient sitting in front of us.

    I disagree
    20+ years into this godforesaken job, I undoubtedly prescribe more.
    Call it patient demand / defensive medicine / time constraints / telephone triage. Whatever excuse you like, the bottom line is I’m trying to manage increasing numbers of complex patients with insufficient time & at the same time trying to minimise risk.
    Of course I’m worried about bug resistance but I’m worried about my sanity more.

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  • why not make all otc meds unavailable on nhs scripts, make all other chronic disease scripts free on the nhs and charge £15 per script for any antibiotic from a GP practice, ooh, A^E etc. low income claim back from DSS or what ever and those who need long term scripts to have only from a consultant and hospital pharmacy and they manage the prescriptions. Doctor has discretion to prescribe and ask for no charge if patient has no money but DSS/fraud squad FU this is true. patients who need regular paracetamol etc could have a script notice to a pharmacy allowing for more tablets but only from that pharmacy from their GP. most countries patients have to pay for their medication or have insurance cover so having them free is a luxury and should be protected. Studies show many patients don't take their antibiotics properly, store them correctly or don't finish the course. if you pay for them and its costly you are less likely to waste them or tip them down the toilet which is a disaster for our environment. sepsis is a multi factorial issue and not always about having antibiotics or not, you can still get sepsis despite adequate antibiotic dosing. if drug resistance increases, currently 30% of uti e coli bacteria are resistant to trimethoprim in the UK, we will not be able to do joint surgery, organ transplant, chemo and radio therapy, babies will die in scbu, women may die after childbirth and sepsis will kill you anyway. Fine anyone who brings antibiotics into the UK without a doctors certificate or legal import order. the carrot has failed, time to use a stick otherwise our grandchildren won't be alive to curse us.

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  • National Hopeless Service

    More accurate e-prescribing - if its as accurate as 111 algorithms antibiotic prescribing will go up. I want access to point of contact CRP testing not such stupid app.

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  • Government pledge doesnt mean it will happen,look at all the other BS pledges they make, that dont happen.

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  • 15% no matter what, even if getting that last 1% means withholding them from a septic baby. Idiots.

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  • CRP testing did b*****r all to reduce prescribing, cost++ in disposables and turned a ten minute into a thirty minute consultation. The machine is safely back in the cupboard and not coming out any time soon.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    This story just keeps on recurring. is 15% evidence based?

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