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17% drop in antibiotic prescribing in general practice since 2014

Antibiotics prescribing in general practice fell by 17% between 2014 and 2018, according to new figures by Public Health England (PHE).

PHE’s surveillance of antimicrobial utilisation and resistance also showed there were an estimated 61,000 antibiotic-resistant infections in England during 2018, which is a 9% rise from 2017.

The report also found that antibiotic-resistant bloodstream infections rose by 32% between 2014 and 2018 to 17,108. 

In a GP setting, penicillins were the most commonly prescribed antibiotic, at 48.4%, with the second and third being tetracyclines (14.0%) and macrolides (11.9%). 

Alongside these figures, PHE has launched its third Keep Antibiotics Working campaign to raise awareness of the risks of antibiotic resistance and to urge people to take their doctor’s advice on antibiotics.

It follows a pledge by the Government to cut antibiotic prescribing by a ‘further 15%’ in January as part of a 20-year vision for antimicrobial resistance. 

In 2016, GPs had cut antibiotics prescribing by 6% over a three-year period. 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, outgoing chair of the RCGP, said: ‘Antibiotics can be lifesaving drugs but when bacteria become resistant to them – as they increasingly are – they will cease to work, and in many cases we will then have no viable therapeutic alternative, which could be disastrous for the patients affected.

‘GPs are already doing a good job at reducing antibiotics prescribing, but it can’t be our responsibility alone – we need the public to understand that antibiotics are neither a cure nor an appropriate treatment for many minor self-limiting conditions and viral infections, and if a GP advises against antibiotics, they are doing their best for the patient’s own good, and that of wider society.’

Dr Susan Hopkins, AMR Lead, Public Health England said: ‘We want the public to join us in tackling antibiotic resistance by listening to your GP, pharmacist or nurse’s advice and only taking antibiotics when necessary.’

The Government announced an extra £2m investment for its antibiotics resistance campaign in July


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