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25.01.19

Hancock unveils antibiotic resistance action plan to fight ‘urgent global’ threat

The NHS has unveiled a five-year national action plan pledging to reduce its use of antibiotics by 15% by 2024 after the health secretary declared drug-resistant superbugs are now as big a threat as climate change or war.

Matt Hancock, launching the government’s 20-year vision at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland, said “we need an urgent global response” to growing antimicrobial resistance which now poses “as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare.”

The government plans to change the way it funds drug companies to encourage them to develop new medicine, and Hancock said antibiotics will now only be used “when absolutely necessary.”

Antibiotic resistance is predicted to kill 10 million people every year by 2050, and the NHS has warned that without effective antibiotics then straightforward, everyday operations such as hip replacements could become too dangerous to perform.

The NHS has pledged to cut the number of drug-resistant infections by 10% by 2025, as well as reducing the amount of antibiotics it uses by 15%.

The action plan aims to prevent at least 15,000 patients each year from contracting infections as a result of their healthcare, also by 2024, and new technology will be used to gather real-time patient data to help clinicians determine when to use or preserve antibiotics.

Matt Hancock stated: “Imagine a world without antibiotics. Where treatable infections become untreatable, where routine surgery like a hip operation becomes too risky to carry out, and where every wound is potentially life-threatening.

“Each and every one of us benefits from antibiotics, but we all too easily take them for granted, and I shudder at the thought of a world in which their power is diminished.

“That’s why we need an urgent global response.”

The UK has cut its use of antibiotics by 7% since 2014 but the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections has increased by 35% between 2013 and 2017.

Theresa May commented: “It is vital that we tackle the spread of drug-resistant infections before routine operations and minor illnesses become life-threatening.”

The chair of the Royal College of GPs, Helen Stokes-Lampard, welcomed the plan but said this was not just something GPs are responsible for, this is a society-wide issue.

She stated: “We need to get to a stage where antibiotics are not seen by patients as a ‘catch all’ for every illness, but rather as a serious drug option, usually reserved for when all other treatment options have either failed or been deemed inappropriate.”

Image credit - MJ_Prototype

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