A dramatic reduction in the prescriptions of antibiotics to patients has won praise for the GPs in England who have “dramatically” reduced the number of antibiotics they give to patients.
NHS Improvement said that prescriptions for all types of antibiotic had come down by more than 2.6 million from the previous year to about 34 million in 2015-16. They described the change as a “fantastic result”.
The results also showed that the doctors were being careful not to over-prescribe them.
The exercise to curb the over prescribing of antibiotics is part of a wider drive to stop harmful infections developing resistance to antibiotics.
There have been growing concerns about the use of antibiotics as the report last week by Lord Jim O’Neill demonstrated.
Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections and are useless if the cause of illness is a virus.
Antibiotic Cut Down
To encourage the GPs to cut down on their antibiotic prescriptions, the government has offered a financial incentive to GPs.
Also, the Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) get a Quality Premium payment if the family doctors hit the target.
Dr Mike Durkin, from NHS Improvement, said: “This [is a] fantastic result achieved in just one year.”
He said they would continue to work to bring the figures down further.
NHS England provided extra money to the local health bosses to bring the prescribing of antibiotics down.
Next year, the targets have been extended to 4% for overall use and 20% for broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Prescriptions for broad-spectrum antibiotics went down by 16%, from 3.9 million prescriptions in 2014-15 to 3.3 million the following year.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics are drugs that should be reserved for treating the most serious, hard-to-treat bacterial infections.
Pushed To Prescribe Antibiotics
Dr Mike Durkin said,
“Every year, too many people suffer and lose their lives due to antibiotic-resistant infections,” he said.
“At a time when the NHS has advanced in many areas of patient care, science and technology, we must work to prevent healthcare going backwards to a time where antibiotics are no longer fighting infections.
“This is why efforts in the NHS to reduce the overprescribing of antibiotics are crucial, and these latest figures are a significant step forward in this fight.”
Dr Maureen Baker, of the Royal College of GPs, said that the doctors faced pressure from patients to prescribe antibiotics.
However, she said that it was the duty of the doctors to say no sometimes.
“We need to continue to work together to make the public realise that prescribing antibiotics is not always the answer to treating minor, self-limiting illness,” she said.