Antibiotics are used by doctors and vets to treat and prevent infections. But bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to current antibiotic treatments, threatening our ability to carry out routine operations or transplants in the future.
In March, the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies set out the risks involved, saying that antimicrobial resistance poses a ‘catastrophic threat’ if action is not taken.
All the recommendations on antimicrobial resistance made in the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report have been accepted and acted on, including ongoing work to add antimicrobial resistance to the Government’s long-term risk register, the National Security Risk Assessment.
Responding to the call for more action, Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said: "The Chief Medical Officer’s stark warning showed that bacteria are adapting fast and if we don’t take action, we could face serious problems in years to come.
"That’s why this strong, cross government strategy sets out real actions to stay one step ahead and fight antimicrobial resistance both nationally and internationally.
"But this is really a problem that society has to take on together, through better education, treatment and monitoring of bacteria. Whether you’re a patient, a doctor or a vet, we all have a role to play in prescribing and using antibiotics responsibly."
The five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy outlines that steps are being taken to:
- Improve how we prevent and manage infections in people and in animals; including through better hygiene and monitoring of bacteria in medical and community settings, and through better farming practices.
- Improve education and training around the prescribing of antibiotics to reduce inappropriate usage and make sure patients get the right antibiotics, at the right time and for the right duration.
- Collect better data on the resistance of bugs so we can track them more effectively, find the most resistant bacteria and step in earlier where there is resistance to antibiotics.
- Provide funding of up to £4 million to set up a new National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit which will focus on AMR and healthcare associated infections. In recognition of the importance of quick action, the NIHR is also running a themed research call to encourage AMR research across a range of areas.
- Explore ways to encourage the development of new antibiotics, rapid diagnostics and other treatments by working with industry and across Government.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: "Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem and we all need to take responsibility. I have already been speaking with the World Health Organization, the G8 and with countries across the world to make sure we’re all working together and I am pleased to see that steps are being taken in the UK to help us take the fight to resistant bacteria."
The strategy calls upon a wide range of health and Government organisations to engage with and contribute to this work. It also highlights the importance of working with the farming, food, retail and pharmaceutical sectors, as well as the academic community and professional bodies.
Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens said: "Livestock diseases can often be prevented or contained through good farm management. Vets and farmers should continue to work together to ensure that the antibiotics are used responsibly, only when it is essential for the welfare of animals or the safety of food."
You can view the full report by clicking here.