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‘Excellent progress’ in reducing antibiotic prescriptions in primary care

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Primary care reduction in antibiotic prescriptions Primary care has reduced its antibiotic prescriptions significantly

A report by Public Health England has found that primary care has made more significant contributions to reduce the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in the UK than secondary care.

The English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance has published its report for 2018-19 which shows that antibiotic resistance is still on the rise, despite efforts to reduce it. This report estimates that there were 165 new antibiotic resistant infections per day in 2018.

'Antibiotics are one of the most powerful tools we have against infection. Resistance to these drugs therefore places much of modern medicine in jeopardy. A key component of our response to this problem is to ensure people use antibiotics appropriately,' said Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty.

'The decrease in consumption of antibiotics is good news but the rise in resistant infections shows the threat is increasing and so there is more to be done. Antibiotic resistance is not just a matter for clinicians – the public also have a crucial role to play in helping to preserve these vital medicines.'

The data show that primary care has succeeded in reducing its antibiotic prescriptions, whereas secondary care antibiotic use is still increasing. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of items prescribed per day in general practice decreased by 16.7%, compared to a 2.8% increase in items prescribed by hospitals. Consequently, antibiotic resistance appears less prevalent in community-onset infection, in comparison to hospital-onset infection – 13% of E coli cases in the community show resistance, compared to 19% of hospital cases.

'Antibiotics can be lifesaving drugs, but when bacteria become resistant to them – as they increasingly are – they will cease to work, and in many cases we will then have no viable therapeutic alternative, which could be disastrous for the patients affected,' said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs.

'GPs are already doing a good job at reducing antibiotics prescribing, but it can’t be our responsibility alone – we need the public to understand that antibiotics are neither a cure nor an appropriate treatment for many minor self-limiting conditions and viral infections, and if a GP advises against antibiotics, they are doing their best for the patient’s own good, and that of wider society.'

In response to the increase in resistance, PHE is relaunching its ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign, with new resources from the 5th of November.

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