Antibiotics have dramatically reduced the number of deaths from infections and infectious diseases since they were introduced 70 years ago.
They are now a vital tool for modern medicine and not just for the treatment of infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis and tuberculosis, but also for preventing infections from occuring during surgical procedures and cancer treatment.
Our antibiotic resistance problem is compounded by the fact that the discovery of new antibiotics is at an all-time low, even though we’ve always had an understanding of the problems we could face if we run out of effective antibiotics.
Our guidance on the prescribing of antibiotics for respiratory tract infections, an area where antibiotics are often over prescribed, can play an important role in reducing inappriopriate prescribing. It 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.
A clinical knowledge summary - which provides summaries of the best available evidence and practical guidance on best practice - is available to help healthcare professionals address the use of antibiotics for chest infections.
As well as this, we are developing two new guidelines to help tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. The first is on safe and effective antimicrobial stewardship in relation to the use of antimicrobials in health and social care, and the second is a public health guideline that will focus on changing people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in relation to the use of antimicrobials. There will also be a quality standard on antibiotic prescribing as part of a suite of new public health quality standards.