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Patient safety alert issued on antimicrobial resistance

Joint alert asks GPs to use toolkits to start cutting antimicrobial resistance

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

GPs are being asked to identify how existing toolkits can be used to cut antimicrobial resistance (AMR) within their patient population and take action, in a new attempt to reduce the growing problem of overreliance on antibiotics.

NHS England, Health Education England and Public Health England (PHE) have issued a joint National Patient Safety Alert to all providers of NHS care in England to highlight the challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the “need for antimicrobial stewardship”.

The alert follows the publication yesterday of guidance from NICE that warned doctors to cut back on their prescribing of antibiotics significantly.

The new joint alert says antimicrobial resistance has risen alarmingly over the last 40 years and inappropriate use of antimicrobials is a key driver.

From 2010 to 2013, total antibiotic prescribing in England increased by 6%, comprising of a 4% rise in general practice and a 12% increase in hospital inpatient prescribing.

The joint patient safety alert signposts GPs and NHS organisations to the TARGET (Treat Antibiotics Responsibly, Guidance, Education, Tools); and Antimicrobial Stewardship: Start Smart then Focus toolkits.

The toolkits were developed by PHE in collaboration with several professional bodies including the RCGP, to support the NHS in improving antimicrobial stewardship in both primary and secondary care.

In the alert, health providers are asked to specifically identify how the toolkits can be used to support their own local antimicrobial stewardship programmes.

Antimicrobial stewardship means an organisational and system-wide approach to promote and monitor the “judicious use” of antimicrobials by:

  • optimising therapy for individual patients
  • preventing overuse and misuse
  • minimising the development of resistance at patient and community levels.

The consequences of AMR, says the alert, includes increased treatment failure for common infections and fewer treatment options where antibiotics are vital, such as during certain cancer treatments.

Antimicrobial stewardship was crucial to combating AMR, said the authors, and was an important element of the UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy.

Dr Mike Durkin, NHS England director of patient safety, said: “This important national patient safety alert sends a strong signal that we must work together as a united front to be successful in reducing antimicrobial resistance and keeping these vital medicines effective.

“Now is the time to act; whether we are patients, GPs, hospitals or national bodies we all have a role to play in preventing what could have a catastrophic effect on healthcare as we know it if we fail to recognise our individual and collective responsibility to manage appropriate antimicrobial stewardship.”

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