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New action plan to fight antimicrobial resistance

Fight against AMR is not just down to GPs, say leaders

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 24 January 2019

A new UK-wide action plan to contain and control the growth of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by 2040 has been launched today.

The government today published a 20-year vision paper1 and five-year national action plan2 setting out how the UK will step up its fight against AMR which threatens the effectiveness of antibiotics.

GP leaders have welcomed the plan stressing that although GPs have been acting to curb the use of antibiotics in recent years, the scale of the problem means wider action is needed on various fronts.

Antibiotic resistance is predicted to kill 10 million people every year by 2050 without action, as outlined in the independent review on antimicrobial resistance3 published in 2016.

Since 2014, the UK has cut the amount of antibiotics it uses by more than 7% and sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals have dropped by 40%. However, the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections have increased by 35% from 2013 to 2017.

A principal focus of the new plan is to ensure current antibiotics stay effective by reducing the number of resistant infections and supporting clinicians to prescribe appropriately.

The plans’ targets include:

  • cutting the number of drug-resistant infections by 10% (5,000 infections) by 2025
  • reducing the use of antibiotics in humans by 15%
  • preventing at least 15,000 patients from contracting infections as a result of their healthcare each year by 2024.

New technology will also be used to gather real-time patient data, helping clinicians understand when to use and preserve antibiotics in their treatment.

The pharmaceutical industry will also be expected to take more responsibility for antibiotic resistance.

The reports say that NICE and NHS England will explore a new payment model that pays pharmaceutical companies based on how valuable their medicines are to the NHS, rather than on the quantity of antibiotics sold.

The government said it hoped the proposals would incentivise companies to invest in the development of drugs that will treat high priority resistant infections.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have time to act. But the urgency is now. Each and every one of us benefits from antibiotics, but we all too easily take them for granted, and I shudder at the thought of a world in which their power is diminished. Antimicrobial resistance is as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare. That’s why we need an urgent global response.”

The Royal College of General Practitioners welcomed the action plan, and its chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest and most dangerous threats to modern healthcare, and the more high-level support we get to tackle this problem, the better.

“GPs are already making excellent headway in reducing antibiotic use in the community and will only prescribe when they are absolutely necessary and the best course of action for the patient sitting in front of us.

“However, as this national action plan highlights, this is a society-wide issue and not something GPs can be held responsible for tackling on their own.

“We need to get to a stage where antibiotics are not seen by patients as a ‘catch all’ for every illness, but rather as a serious drug option, usually reserved for when all other treatment options have either failed or been deemed inappropriate.”

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s chief executive Mike Thompson said: “We have been working closely with the government for the last two years and pharmaceutical companies are ready and waiting to start testing a new model to support antibiotics R&D in 2019.”


  1. Contained and controlled: the UK's 20-year vision for antimicrobial resistance. Department of Health and Social Care, 24 January 2019.
  2. Tackling antimicrobial resistance 2019 to 2024: the UK's 5-year national action plan. Department of Health and Social Care, 24 January 2019.
  3. Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: Final report and recommendations. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, May 2016.

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