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In-practice testing of infections to become widespread, says DH



In-practice testing of infections to see whether they are bacterial or not will become ‘widespread’ in coming years as part of a drive to increase the use of diagnostic technologies, the Government has announced.

The DH has accepted all the recommendations made by chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies in her annual report published earlier this year, in which she warned that antimicrobial resistance posed a ‘catastrophic threat’ if action is not taken.

The DH’s five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy published yesterday said: ‘In the next few years, whole genome sequencing and other diagnostic technologies will move from research laboratories into widespread use, enabling rapid identification of bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens and their genetic potential for drug resistance. This will help the early tailoring of treatment, benefitting both the patient and helping the conservation of antibiotics.’

The Government said it would also increase the use of ‘point-of-care diagnostics to identify where antimicrobials are required, as well as to reassess the appropriateness of the diagnosis and treatment’ and ‘extend the learning from hospital antimicrobial stewardship programmes and prescribing measures to primary care.’

More would also be done to ‘build clinical capability and deliver effective antimicrobial stewardship. Clinicians involved in prescribing need to remain up to date with emerging evidence on resistance and appropriate antibiotic usage. One way to help clinicians achieve this is by ensuring that continuing professional development programmes include the competences required for effective antibiotic stewardship.’

The strategy also calls on GPs to make better use of resources including the ‘Treat Antibiotics Responsibly, Guidance and Education Tool’ (TARGET) and ‘Stemming the Tide of Antibiotic Resistance’ (STAR) and consider the use of non-prescription pads and delayed antibiotic prescribing.

Launching the strategy, public health minister Anna Soubry said: ‘The chief medical officer’s stark warning showed that bacteria are adapting fast and if we don’t take action, we could face serious problems in years to come.

‘This really is a problem that society has to take on together, through better education, treatment and monitoring of bacteria. Whether you’re a patient, a doctor or a vet, we all have a role to play in prescribing and using antibiotics responsibly.’