New support for GPs to fight antimicrobial resistance

CREDIT: This story was first seen in OnMedica

GPs are being urged to carry on their fight against unnecessary antibiotic prescribing as part of a new public awareness campaign called ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ launched, OnMedica reports.

The campaign from Public Health England (PHE) aims to support GPs in fighting antimicrobial resistance and will help them to further manage patient expectations by providing evidence and resources to support their conversations with patients about the use of antibiotics.

PHE said GPs played a key role in fighting antimicrobial resistance and had already reduced prescriptions of antibiotics by more than 2.5 million since the peak in 2014-15 (a 13% decrease in the last three years).

The Keep Antibiotics Working campaign will be a major national print and broadcast advertising campaign to encourage members of the public to take their health professional’s advice on antibiotics by only taking them when absolutely necessary.

The campaign dovetails with PHE’s existing Antibiotics Guardian campaign aimed at healthcare professionals.

In addition to television adverts and social media campaign, PHE is producing posters, leaflets and video presentations for use in GP surgeries and patient waiting areas.

To coincide with the campaign launch, PHE has today published its latest annual English surveillance programme for antimicrobial utilisation and resistance (ESPAUR) report.

It reveals that the number of prescriptions dispensed in the GP setting fell by 13% between 2012 and 2016 (falling by 2% from 2015 to 2016), largely driven by reductions in use of penicillins.

Between 2012 and 2016, antibiotic prescribing reduced by 5% overall, when measured as defined daily doses per 1,000 inhabitants per day, with declines across the majority of antibiotic groups, but significant regional variation in antibiotic use was still noticeable.

In secondary care, despite some progress observed in 2015, there was not a sustained reduction in total antibiotic prescribing.

PHE warned that four in 10 patients with an E. coli bloodstream infection in England cannot be treated with the most commonly used antibiotic in hospitals and every year, an estimated 5,000 deaths are caused in England due to antibiotic resistance.

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Paul Cosford, director of health protection at PHE, said: “GPs are on the frontline in the fight against antimicrobial resistance by managing patient expectations around the prescribing of antibiotics.

“The Keep Antibiotics Working campaign supports the profession by educating the public about the dangers of antimicrobial resistance and the risks to their health in taking antibiotics when they are not needed. As Antibiotics Guardians, GPs can help combat the growing threat that antimicrobial resistance poses to us all.”

Supporting the campaign, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chair, warned that antibiotics must not be a “catch all” for every illness.

“Antibiotics are highly-effective drugs when used appropriately, but we have become too dependent on them as a society – and if we don’t tackle this, it will have a terrible impact on patients’ health globally,” she said.

“GPs are doing an excellent job at reducing antibiotics prescriptions, but we still come under considerable pressure from patients to prescribe them. We need to get to a stage where antibiotics are not seen as a ‘catch all’ for every illness – and patients need to understand that if their doctor does not prescribe antibiotics, it is because they genuinely believe that they are not the most appropriate treatment.”

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