Antibiotic resistance up as England hits prescription reduction target

Antibiotic resistance up as England hits prescription reduction target

The estimated total number of serious antibiotic resistant infections in England rose by 2.2 per cent in 2021 compared to 2020, according to data released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The number remains below pre-pandemic levels (62,422 in 2019), which, according to the UKHSA, is driven by a number of factors including changes in how NHS services were delivered and how much people contacted the NHS, as well as reduced social mixing and enhanced hand hygiene during the pandemic.

In England, total antibiotic use fell by 15.1 per cent between 2017 to 2021, from 18.8 Daily Defined Doses (DDD) per 1,000 inhabitants per day to 15.9. This means that England has exceeded the government’s National Action Plan goal to reduce prescribing by 15 per cent by 2024 from a 2014 baseline.

Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said:

"We are already seeing resistance emerge to our very newest antibiotics – innovation to find new treatments will only succeed if we use what we have responsibly. Overuse of antibiotics will mean they stop working against life threatening conditions such as sepsis.

"Antibiotics won’t help the symptoms of cold, flu or coronavirus (COVID-19) – please trust your healthcare professional, take antibiotics only as prescribed, never share with others and don’t save for later. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your loved ones at risk of having an untreatable infection in future."

UKHSA Chief Executive Professor Dame Jenny Harries said:

"Antibiotic resistance is not a distant problem that we can ignore – infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria are killing thousands of people every year in this country and globally, as well as having a huge economic impact. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a pivotal moment to maintain focus on the ‘silent pandemic’ of antibiotic resistance through our extensive surveillance and antibiotic stewardship activities."

Last month, doctors criticised the (then) Health Secretary (now Defra secretary) Thérèse Coffey, after she admitted to sharing prescription antibiotics with others - actions the British Medical Association described as both dangerous and against the law.

“Sharing prescribed medications, particularly antibiotics, is not only potentially dangerous, but also against the law, and we would ask our health secretary to instead support us in encouraging good and safe prescribing practices,” said Richard Van Mellaerts at the BMA.

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