Doctors prescribed 2.2 million less antibitoics in England between 2014 to 2015 – reducing from 40.7 million to 38.5 million – data from Public Health England (PHE) shows.

The 4.3 percent decline in antibiotic prescriptions is the first time a reduction in antibiotic use has been seen across the whole healthcare system, the 'English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance' (ESPAUR) report, said.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics, such a taking them for viruses like colds and flu, fuels resistance and experts have warned that for some diseases there are no effective medicines left.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE said: "This new data published by PHE shows that our attitudes are changing for the better. Now we must work hard to maintain this momentum."

NICE is currently seeking comments on proposed 'management of common infections' guidelines. This suite of guidance will provide evidence-based advice on how common infections can be managed, with the purpose of tackling antibiotic resistance.

"Establishing better ways of using our current antibiotics is vital, and this will be informed by new NICE guidance on managing common infections", Professor Leng added.

The news comes on European Antibiotic Awareness Day. In a statement released to coincide with the day, The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the European Patients Forum jointly called on the European Commission and national governments to step up the fight against drug-resistant infections in the follow-up EU Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance announced for 2017. The EU has a vital role to play in protecting health security in Europe and empowering patients to take action to stop superbugs.

EPHA Secretary-General Nina Renshaw said: "Our worst fears about a return to the dark ages of medicines are rapidly being realised. The previous EU AMR Action Plan 2011-2016 proved insufficient to avert the health crisis posed by drug-resistant infections. Making a new Action Plan which is up to the task must be amongst President Juncker's top priorities. Coordination at European level is essential to ensure that every country, every hospital, every prescriber, every farmer is doing their bit to protect patients everywhere by stopping the spread of superbugs."