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Antibiotic prescription numbers fall by more than 2 million in a year

26 May 2016

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GPs have written 2.6 million fewer antibiotics prescriptions this year compared to last, according to NHS Improvement.

The national patient safety team has worked with Public Health England and NHS England to cut the number of antibiotics prescribed by 7.3% in one year to about 34 million.

This exceeds the 1% reduction target set for the NHS as part of its commitment to reduce the risk of more infections and bacterial strains becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Furthermore, the unnecessary use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, which should be reserved for the treatment of serious infections, has been reduced by 16%, which amounts to more than 600,000 prescriptions.

Dr Mike Durkin, national director for patient safety at NHS Improvement, 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 our Patient Safety Team will continue to work with them and with our partners at Public Health England and NHS England to bring these figures down even further.”

According to The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance published last week, the majority of “antibiotic prescriptions are made outside the hospital, by doctors without using a diagnostic tool, by pharmacists or by self-medicating patients buying antibiotics OTC”.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to patient safety worldwide and to help tackle the problem NHS England promised 10% of the Quality Premium, £80,000, to CCGs who met a 1% reduction target.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the royal college of GPs, said: “These figures show that healthcare professionals across the UK are taking our warnings about growing resistance to antibiotics, and its terrible consequences, seriously and are working hard to address them.

“Such a significant drop in prescribing shows that the work the College is doing to support appropriate prescribing and urge healthcare professionals to say ‘no’ is taking effect, despite the pressure GPs often face from patients to prescribe antibiotics.
“However, we can’t be complacent. We all have a responsibility to curb this dangerous growing resistance to what are excellent and life-saving drugs when prescribed appropriately.”

Baker also called for more investment in new drugs to improve GPs “arsenal of medication that will be able to treat emerging and future diseases”, with the latest antibiotic released over 25 years ago.

She added: “The RCGP has highlighted the challenge that we face through resistance to antibiotics and we have developed the TARGET antibiotics toolkit, with Public Health England, to support GPs in the appropriate prescribing of antibiotics.”