World Antimicrobial Awareness Week – blog from Professor Philip Howard

Professor Philip Howard, OBE, AMR Regional Antimicrobial Stewardship Lead, NHS England North-East & Yorkshire has written a blog to coincide with World Antimicrobial Awareness Week which starts today (18 November 2022).
Professor Howard said:

Antimicrobial resistance is threatening modern medicine! Antibiotics have reduced deaths from infections by three-quarters, and have added between 8 to 20 years to life expectancy. However resistance is growing to antibiotics, and it is estimated that more people will die from drug-resistant infections than cancer or diabetes each year within thirty years. In many parts of the world, including Europe, resistance has reached levels whereby they are having to stop life-saving cancer treatments because the inevitable infections are not treatable. AMR travels across the world with people and goods, so we need to take action to make these life-saving medicines last as long as possible. Over-use of antibiotics drives antimicrobial resistance in the higher income countries of the world. Preventing infections means less antibiotic use and will help preserve them.

Within our region, we have some of the highest rates of infections and antibiotic prescribing in England. During the CoVID pandemic, better hand hygiene and avoiding patient contact when people were ill led to a reduction in bacterial infections and overall antibiotic use.  Getting all recommended vaccines, practicing good oral, food and hand hygiene and ensuring adequate hydration can also reduce infections. One of our ICBs has developed a short film explaining AMR for the public view here. But our patients don’t prescribe or recommend antibiotics, our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, allied health care professionals, clinical scientists and carers do. Most of the time it is appropriate, but there is always room for improvement to reduce unnecessary use. We have been working with the newly formed ICBs to develop AMR Boards and subgroups to improve the prevention and treatment of infections by adopting national guidance, but by sharing their best practice and innovations.

For example, in the North-East, we have seen the innovative use of diagnostic tools to safely treat with women with suspected UTIs faster in community pharmacies and relieve pressure on GPs, whilst supplying lower rates of antibiotics. We have seen initiatives to remove inappropriate penicillin allergy labels in both primary care and hospitals by non-specialists which is linked to less harm and better outcomes for patients. In West Yorkshire, videos are being made for the public and carers to help prevent life-threatening infections from UTIs. These have focused on prevention by better hydration, explaining incontinence and the products used. Other work is ongoing to reduce health inequalities to ensure that all people of our region get the same quality of healthcare. The Healthier Together team in South Yorkshire provide advice for illnesses and infections seen in children is available in multiple languages. A similar initiative called the Little Orange Book has been developed in the North-East.  Our role within the region is to help others to adopt and adapt these innovations to help preserve antibiotics.

Let’s keep antibiotics working and by becoming Antibiotic Guardians