NHS England has launched a national programme to combat antibiotic overusage, which it describes it as “the world’s largest healthcare incentive scheme” to prevent antimicrobial resistance. 

The programme, which goes live in April 2016, will offer hospitals incentive funding worth up to £150 million to support expert pharmacists and clinicians to review and reduce inappropriate prescribing. In addition, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) could receive up to £150,000 a year to support GP practices to improve their antimicrobial prescribing.

CCGs are being supported to reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed in primary care by four percent, or to the average performance levels of 2013/14. Hospital trusts will also receive payments for gathering and sharing evidence of antibiotic consumption and review within 72 hours of the beginning of treatment. Information will be available for commissioners to review on a dedicated website and will allow them to directly monitor progress. 

Further payments will be made for reducing the use of specific types of drug which are used to treat a wide range of bacteria. 

“These so-called ‘broad spectrum’ antibiotics need to be reserved to treat resistant disease and should generally be used only when standard antibiotics are ineffective,” NHS England says in a statement.

In December 2015 it researchers from King’s College London found that GPs prescribing fewer antibiotics score less on patient satisfaction – despite another study by Public Health England showing that as many as 51% of patients are inappropriately prescribed an antibiotic by their GP for coughs and colds, for which antibiotics are completely ineffective.

Tackling antimicrobial resistance has become a global health priority in recent years. In January more than 80 pharma and diagnostic firms agreed a common set of principles and commitments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to provide a roadmap guiding further collaborative efforts between industry, governments and NGOs.