Calls to curb unnecessary antibiotic prescribing
Doctors and nurses are being urged to tackle the rise in antibiotic resistance by helping to cut back on unnecessary use of the drugs.
Antibiotic resistance is an increasingly serious problem on a global scale. In many countries, the rate of resistance has more than doubled in the past five years
This resistance is partly caused by the inappropriate use of antibiotics, which can consequently increase the risk of treatment failure and cost of care.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is using European Antibiotic Awareness Day, today, to raise awareness of the growing number of infections due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are rising globally due to the over-use of antibiotics and inappropriate prescribing.
Supported by the Department of Health, the ECDC urges both doctors and nurses in hospitals and primary care settings to be more prudent in their use and prescription of antibiotics.
Following NICE's advice on the prescribing of antibiotics can help healthcare professionals ensure that they only prescribe the drugs where necessary.
NICE's guidance has already had a big impact on reducing antibiotic prescribing rates for infective endocarditis - an infection of the lining of the heart caused by bacteria and occasionally other agents.
Since its launch, the guideline has helped to reduce prescribing of antibiotics for this condition by 78.6 per cent.
The guideline recommends that antibiotic prophylaxis should not be offered for all patients at risk of infective endocarditis undergoing dental and a range of other procedures.
This is because there is insufficient evidence to support the use of antibiotics as a preventative measure to people at risk of infective endocarditis.
NICE's clinical guideline on the prescribing of antibiotics for respiratory tract infections, an area where antibiotics are often over prescribed, states that a no-antibiotic, or delayed antibiotic strategy should be used to treat people with infections.
Healthcare professionals should reassure patients that this is because antibiotics will make little difference to symptoms, and may have side effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting and rash.
NICE also advises against the use of antibiotics for the treatment of otitis media with effusion, commonly known as ear infection.
Commenting on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, said: "Many antibiotics are currently prescribed and used when they don't need to be - meaning antibiotics lose their effectiveness at a rapidly increasing rate.
"It is important we use antibiotics in the right way if we are to get the best outcome for the patient, slow down resistance and make sure these important medicines continue to stay effective for ourselves and for future generations."
Earlier this month, NICE published a quality improvement guide on preventing and controlling healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) in secondary care settings.
Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre of Public Health at NICE, commented that reducing unnecessary antibiotic prescribing is one method for tackling HCAI in secondary care and other healthcare organisations.
He said: "One of the areas where it is possible to make a major impact in tackling the growing problem of antibiotic resistance is in reducing unnecessary antibiotic prescribing through better prevention and control of HCAIs.
"However, good infection control practice can only be achieved with strong organisational support and commitment to implementing policies that are practicable and effective in preventing and controlling these infections.
"NICE, in association with the Health Protection Agency, has published a quality improvement guide on the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections in secondary care settings.
"Based on the best available evidence in this area, the guide illustrates how secondary care organisations can take a whole system approach in tackling the problem."
18 November 2011