The number of antibiotics prescribed in primary care fell substantially last year, and at a greater rate than other sectors, NHS England has said.
Data showed that between April and December last year, there were 7.9% (2 million) fewer prescriptions in primary care compared to the same period in 2014.
NHS England said that antibiotic prescribing across the NHS reduced by 5.3% between 2015 and 2014 – a total of 2,166,489 fewer items.
It said that within this total there were almost half a million fewer ‘broad spectrum’ antibiotics, which act against a wide range of bacteria and are therefore more likely to cause antibiotic resistance building up.
NHS England pointed to its work, together with Public Health England, to incentivise local areas to reduce antibiotic prescribing as reason behind the fall.
Chief medical officer for England Dame Sally Davies said: ‘Antibiotics are the cornerstone of modern medicine and we need to do all we can to preserve them. I am really pleased to see that, through a focus on prescribing of antibiotics, we have seen such a real reduction in their inappropriate use.’
Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie said: ’Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to health in the UK and globally and taking action to combat it is vital.
’I am delighted to see the success of the NHS achieving such a significant reduction.’
Earlier this month, NHS England hailed ‘the good work of GPs’ in reducing antibiotic prescribing, as 90% of CCGs were found to now be meeting targets in overall antibiotic use in primary care, while over 80% are hitting their targets for cutting prescriptions for broad spectrum antibiotics.