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Antibiotic prescribing falls in general practice

7.9% fall in antibiotic prescribing in a year

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 24 March 2016

GPs are starting to prescribe fewer antibiotics in line with a national drive to reduce such prescribing and prevent antimicrobial resistance from growing.

New figures from NHS England show that between April and December 2015, two million fewer prescriptions were dispensed compared to the same period in 2014 – a 7.9% reduction.

Overall in 2015, antibiotic prescribing in primary care fell by 5.3% compared to 2014 – a total of 2,166,489 fewer items.

Within this total, there were 480,450 fewer ‘broad spectrum’ antibiotics, reducing the use of which helps tackle resistance, but also reduces the likelihood of healthcare-acquired infections like C. difficile developing.

Safely reducing the amount of antibiotics prescribed to patients was an important part of work to tackle antimicrobial resistance, said NHS England, which said the progress made followed its introduction of financial incentives in April 2015, working with Public Health England (PHE).

It warned that inappropriate use and overuse of antibiotics were known drivers of resistance, so reducing the amount of antibiotics consumed slowed bacteria developing resistance to these vital drugs and therefore helped prevent antibiotic-resistant infections.

Dr Mike Durkin, NHS national director of patient safety, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to the delivery of healthcare across the globe, and these findings clearly show that NHS England’s incentive programme is an important step in the right direction. Healthcare staff across the country should be congratulated for this significant achievement

“However, there is a lot of work still to be done to preserve the effectiveness of these vital drugs. This will require the continued effort of both medical staff and patients to ensure antibiotics are only used and prescribed where appropriate, across all areas of healthcare.”

Durkin said that work to tackle antimicrobial resistance required a range of approaches such as making use of alternatives to antibiotics, which was why NHS England and PHE had worked to increase uptake of flu vaccinations among at-risk groups.

Vaccinations could both prevent infections in the first place and reduce the need for antibiotics.

PHE’s Antibiotic Guardian campaign with partners had also helped by urging members of the public and clinicians to take action in helping to slow antimicrobial resistance by making a pledge about how they could personally help conserve these vital medicines.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, 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.

“Unnecessary use of antibiotics contributes to an increase in drug-resistant infections and it is great to see that England is taking steps to address this.”

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