NICE calls for cut back on antibiotic prescriptions

The new guidance published by NICE suggests that antibiotic prescriptions could be reduced by 25 per cent, which would account for around 10 million prescriptions. NICE found that nine out of ten GPs feel pressured to prescribe antibiotics, and 97 per cent of patients who ask for them are prescribed them.

The guidance outlines plans for multidisciplinary antimicrobial stewardship teams, who would work across all care settings and be able to review prescribing and resistance data and feed this information back to those issuing the prescriptions.

It also calls for better communication between doctors and patients regarding the possible effects of antibiotics and other options available.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: “It’s not just prescribers who should be questioned about their attitudes and beliefs about antibiotics. It’s often patients themselves who, because they don’t understand that their condition will clear up by itself, or that perhaps antimicrobials aren’t effective in treating it, may put pressure on their doctor to prescribe an antibiotic when it is not indicated and they are unlikely to benefit from it.

“The guideline therefore recommends that prescribers take time to discuss with patients the likely nature of their condition, the benefits and harms of immediate antimicrobial prescribing, alternative options such as watchful waiting and/or delayed prescribing and why prescribing an antimicrobial may not be the best option for them.”

The Department of Health said: “Tackling the overuse of antibiotics is a global issue that affects everyone – government, patients, doctors, dentists and vets treating animals – not just GPs.

“In order to make sure we have effective antibiotics for generations to come, we are raising global awareness of the dangers of resistance to antibiotics and providing tools for GPs to support prescribing decisions.”

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