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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.’

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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. 


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