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NHS England, Health Education England and Public Health England have issued a joint National Patient Safety Alert to all providers of NHS care in England to highlight the challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the need for antimicrobial stewardship.
Inappropriate use of antimicrobials has been a key driver in AMR, which has risen alarmingly over the last 40 years. From 2010 to 2013, total antibiotic prescribing in England increased by 6%, comprised of a 4% rise in general practice and a 12% increase in hospital inpatient prescribing.
The joint patient safety alert signposts NHS organisations to the TARGET (Treat Antibiotics Responsibly, Guidance, Education, Tools); and Antimicrobial Stewardship: Start Smart then Focus toolkits. The toolkits have been developed by Public Health England (PHE) in collaboration with several professional bodies to support the NHS in improving antimicrobial stewardship in both primary and secondary care. Through the alert health providers are asked to specifically identify how the toolkits can be used to support their own local antimicrobial stewardship programmes.
The consequences of AMR include increased treatment failure for common infections and decreased treatment options where antibiotics are vital, such as during certain cancer treatments. Antimicrobial stewardship is key to combating AMR and is an important element of the UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy.
Dr Mike Durkin, NHS England Director of Patient Safety, said: “This important national patient safety alert sends a strong signal that we must work together as a united front to be successful in reducing antimicrobial resistance and keeping these vital medicines effective. Now is the time to act; whether we are patients, GPs, hospitals or national bodies we all have a role to play in preventing what could have a catastrophic effect on healthcare as we know it if we fail to recognise our individual and collective responsibility to manage appropriate antimicrobial stewardship.”