Antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of micro-organisms to withstand antimicrobial treatments such as antibiotics. This resistance occurs as bacteria, for example, adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic, meaning the drug no longer works to fight the infection it was previously used to treat. The more an antibiotic is used, the more bacteria become resistant to it.

The consequences of AMR include increasing treatment failure for the most commonplace infections, such as urinary tract infections and decreasing the treatment options available where antibiotics are vital, such as during cancer treatment when patients are prone to infection.

The Chief Medical Officer for England highlighted the problem of antimicrobial resistance in her 2013 annual report and this subsequently led to the UK cross-government five-year (2013-2018) antimicrobial resistance strategy.

National programme to combat antibiotic overusage

The World Health Organisation has estimated that antimicrobial-resistant infections currently claim at least 50,000 lives each year across Europe and the US. A review  by Jim O’Neil last year found that unless action is taken then there could be 10 million worldwide deaths each year attributable to antimicrobial resistance in coming decades.

NHS England has launched the world’s largest healthcare incentive scheme for hospitals, family doctors and other health service providers to prevent the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The programme offers hospitals incentive funding worth up to £150 million to support expert pharmacists and clinicians review and reduce inappropriate prescribing.

Clinical commissioning groups are being supported to reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed in primary care by 4%, 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.

European Antibiotic Awareness Day

We are a proud supporter of both European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) and World Antibiotic Awareness Week. EAAD is held annually on 18 November as a European-wide event to raise awareness on how to use antibiotics in a responsible way that will help keep them effective for the future.

Read more about NHS England and European Antibiotic Awareness Day and in Dr Mike Durkin’s, (NHS England Director of Patient Safety), blog.

Infection prevention and control and antimicrobial stewardship

Healthcare workers have a vital role in preserving the power of antimicrobials.

Antibiotic prescribing and antibiotic resistance are inextricably linked. Overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics are major drivers of resistance. Inadequate hygiene and infection prevention and control measures help to spread infections.

The more we can do to prevent infections and control their spread, the more we will reduce the need for antibiotics and limit opportunities for antimicrobial resistant strains to develop. Where infections do occur we need to diagnose them quickly and use the antibiotics we have appropriately.

AMR resources

A range of resources have been developed to support healthcare providers, staff and commissioners to prevent AMR.

General resources

Resources for healthcare providers and staff

Resources for commissioners

Commissioners guide to the prevention of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

The presentations delivered at the NHS England workshops are available below and will guide commissioners towards existing resources and best practice that will help to reduce inappropriate prescribing and use of antimicrobials in primary and secondary care and support effective antimicrobial stewardship activity.