Why is antibiotic resistance increasing despite a 17% drop in prescriptions?

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Despite a 17% drop in antibiotic prescriptions given out by GPs over the last five years, the number of antibiotic-resistant infections continues to rise.

Public Health England encourages GPs and individuals to only prescribe or take antibiotics when absolutely necessary, for example to combat serious bacterial infections such as sepsis or meningitis.

Antibiotics should not be used for general ailments such as coughs, colds, sore throats etc. – these usually clear up on their own.

If used unnecessarily, the effect of the antibiotics becomes lessened as the bacteria, which live inside the body, become resistant. This means that the medicine may not work when it is really needed to treat a potentially life-threatening infection.

The latest figures show that between 2017 and 2018 there has been an increase of antibiotic-resistant infections by 9% – raising the total to nearly 61,000.

Public Health England’s annual report on antimicrobial resistance for 2018 to 2019 discovered that the most serious infections (ones that infect the blood and can become antibiotic resistant) have increased by one third between 2014 and 2018.

Although antibiotic prescriptions have decreased by 16.7% between 2014 and 2018, Public Health England continue to encourage the public to not take antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.

Amanda Cavanagh, a medical negligence specialist at Ashtons Legal, says: “I have written several articles on our website in relation to sepsis, however when looking at this latest data it appears that E coli was the most common cause of bloodstream infection in England. There needs to be more public awareness of where these infections can potentially come from and what can be done to minimise the chances of contracting potentially fatal infections.”

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