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GPs slash total antibiotic scrips by over 7% in a year

GPs have far exceeded NHS targets for cutting prescriptions for unnecessary antibiotics

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

GPs have dramatically cut the total number of prescriptions they have written for antibiotics over the past year, far exceeding the NHS’s target for cutting prescriptions for unnecessary antibiotics, NHS Improvement revealed this morning. GPs have also surpassed targets for a reduction in the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

The NHS was set a target of a 1% reduction in prescriptions for antibiotics in situations either where they are not usually needed, such as bronchitis and other self-limiting infections, or where they simply wouldn’t work, such as viral respiratory infections. The National Patient Safety Team worked with GPs, commissioners and pharmacists to support them in driving down the number of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions, towards that target.

Today’s figures show that in the first year alone, GPs have already slashed the total number of antibiotic prescriptions they have written by almost 2.7 million – a 7.3% reduction – from 37,033,310 items in 2014-15 to 34,337,167 items in 2015-16.

GPs have also far exceeded the NHS’s target of a 10% reduction in prescriptions for broad-spectrum antibiotics (including amoxiclav, cephalosporins and quinolones), which should be reserved for serious infections. In 2014-15, they prescribed 3,308,788 items from this group, 626,302 fewer (a 16% cut) compared with the 3,935,090 items they prescribed in 2014-15.

NHS Improvement also said that the NHS as a whole has significantly exceeded its targets for a reduction in the use of antibiotics.

Dr Mike Durkin, NHS National Director of Patient Safety, said: “This fantastic result achieved in just one year is testament to the huge efforts of GPs, pharmacists and local commissioners. Healthcare staff across the country should be congratulated for this, and the Patient Safety Team at NHS Improvement will continue to work with them and with our partners at Public Health England and NHS England to bring these figures down even further.”

Last week, the O’Neill Review reported that up to 50,000 lives are lost each year to antibiotic-resistant infections in Europe and the US alone, and that unless the situation is tackled now, by 2050 one person could die every three seconds from an antibiotic-resistant infection. Dr Durkin commented today: “Every year, too many people suffer and lose their lives due to antibiotic-resistant infections. At a time when the NHS has advanced in many areas of patient care, science and technology, we must work to prevent healthcare going backwards to time where antibiotics are no longer fighting infections. This is why efforts in the NHS to reduce the overprescribing of antibiotics are crucial, and these latest figures are a significant step forward in this fight.”

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