Government reveals plans to tackle antibiotic resistance

Matt Hancock has released details of the government’s plans to tackle antibiotic resistance

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has revealed details of a five-year plan and a 20-year plan to tackle the problem of drug-resistant superbugs.

Superbugs have become an issue due to the overuse of antibiotics. Now, the government is planning to change the way it funds drug companies with the aim that this encourages them to develop new medicines.

The scheme aims to reduce the use of antibiotics in humans by 15% over the next five years, while controlling and containing antimicrobial resistance has a deadline of 2040.

According to the British Medical Association (BMA), however, Brexit will impact these plans. BMA public health medicine committee chair, Dr Peter English, said:

 “It is important that the government is making progress in addressing what is a serious threat to public health care and, as such, recognises the importance of international collaboration to truly tackle the scale of the problem.

 “Given however, the significant disruption that Brexit is likely to cause both in the immediate and long-term, the BMA is concerned that such efforts may be thwarted, particularly if the UK’s relationship with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is compromised.

 “Antimicrobial resistance, like many other threats such as infectious disease outbreaks and climate change, is not confined by borders. Cooperation with Europe is therefore paramount to research and surveillance efforts that can better enable us to plan for pandemics and respond to global health threats.

 “This is one the more alarming examples of how Brexit could potentially pose a massive threat to public health and the Government must act now to prevent this from becoming a reality.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, added that GPs cannot be held solely responsible for future changes.

She 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.

“Sore throats, for example, are usually caused by viral infections that antibiotics will not help, but they are also usually self-limiting and will get better on their own in a few days with the help of basic over-the-counter pain relief, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

“It’s crucial that we continue to get this message out, so that we can carry on delivering safe, effective care to our patients both now and in the future.

“It’s also astonishing that there hasn’t been a new and approved class of antibiotics produced in over 30 years – there have recently been some promising signs, but it’s clear that more investment in the research and development of new drugs to tackle emerging diseases is desperately needed, and if offering appropriate incentives and NHS collaborations with pharmaceutical companies are demonstrated to safely support this, then they should be encouraged.”

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