Experts are calling for wide-spread use across the UK of a simple blood test to distinguish between the presence of viral and bacterial respiratory infections to help reduce prescriptions for antibiotics while saving millions of pounds.

Both the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Public Health England have backed use of the needle-prick, point-of-care C-restive protein test to help steer the correct course of treatment in patients suspected of having pneumonia.

But according to a new report out today, Straight to the Point - Ensuring the Rational Use of Antibiotics in Primary Care*, POC CRP is massively under-utilised in the UK, when it could slash antibiotic prescriptions for respiratory infections in primary care by up to 41.5%, saving the NHS £56 million a year on prescription and dispensing costs alone.

According to report contributor Chris Butler, Professor of Primary Care at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford, “POC CRP testing will increase GPs’ resources for evidence based antibiotic prescribing and thus help contain antibiotic resistance,” a leading global threat which could see an extra 10 million lives lost a year by 2050.

Recommendations

The report is recommending that Clinical Commissioning Groups develop innovative ways to fund primary care POC CRP testing, and that they should adopt the NICE and PHE guidelines for respiratory tract infections and antimicrobial stewardship.

The NHS, professional bodies, medical, and pharmacy and nursing schools and manufacturers should also raise awareness of POC tests generally and primary care POC CRP testing in particular among doctors, commissioners and other HCPs.

*The report was created with input from a multi-disciplinary panel of leading healthcare professionals, researchers, patient groups and healthcare experts.