Experts from the Royal Colleges and the UK government will join together in London later today to discuss the most effective way to fight antibiotic resistance.
For the first time, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the Royal Colleges of General Practitioners,  Nursing, Physicians and the Faculty of Public Health, in collaboration with Public Health England and the Department of Health, are coming together to find solutions to the problem. The prime aim is to help shape the delivery of the Government’s five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy.

Chief among the measures being examined are practical ways to ‘roll back’ consumption of antibiotics to 2010 levels.  Between that year and 2013, there was a 6% increase in the combined prescribing of GPs and hospitals and there is more antibiotic resistance in geographical areas that have higher rates of prescribing.

The RCP’s Susan Hopkins noted that doctors have a responsibility “to prescribe the right antibiotic to the right patient at the right time. However we must reduce prescribing to the lowest safest levels”. She says that less antibiotics are used if GPs use back-up (delayed) prescriptions, while in secondary care, she suggests prescriptions be reviewed daily to see whether antibiotics “can be safely stopped or a narrow-spectrum antibiotic prescribed”.

Fine-tuning or stopping use

Dr Hopkins’ view was echoed by Philip Howard at the RPS, who said that “where an infection is proven, we need to complete the course of antibiotics. However, these drugs need to be used more carefully, so it makes sense to adopt a strategy of “fine tuning or stopping the antibiotic when test results are known”.

Dr Howard argues that regular evaluation “will lead to better patient care as well as reduced resistance. I believe these two aims are compatible and mutually supportive”.  
Nigel Mathers of the RCGP said that antibiotics “can work brilliantly as long as they are properly prescribed and used appropriately, but we have developed a worrying reliance on them and some of our patients now see them as a cure-all”. He added that doctors “face enormous pressure to prescribe them” but “we should also be pointing out the alternatives available”.