Scottish Daily Mail
New antibiotic alert
Doctors hand out more and more even though they can’t beat new infections
DOCTORS are still handing out too many antibiotics amid fears they are becoming powerless against deadly infections, a report warns.
In Scotland, the use of the drugs in hospitals has soared despite concern over their role in the rise of superbugs.
Meanwhile, the numbers doled out south of the Border have risen by 6 per cent in four years and doctors are issuing stronger doses for longer periods of time.
This is despite repeated efforts by officials to curb their use over concerns that bacteria are evolving and becoming resistant.
The latest warnings came as a report revealed that the number of infections caused by bugs resistant to antibiotics has risen by a fifth since 2010 in England.
Health experts are becoming increasingly worried about what they term ‘antimicrobial resistance’. The Chief Medical Officer south of the Border has warned it poses a threat as severe as terrorism. Dame Sally Davies also predicted that in a few years patients will die from cuts, routine infections or childbirth after succumbing to a deadly infection.
Figures from Public Health England’s report show GPs handed out an average of 17.1 doses of antibiotics per 1,000 patients a day in 2014. This is up from 16.1 doses in 2010 – a rise of 6.2 per cent.
The report also says that GPs are prescribing ‘longer doses’ and ‘higher courses’ of antibiotics – even though officials have urged them to cut down.
The Scottish Government set up a specialist group in 2008 to combat antibiotic use. Some 96.8million prescriptions were issued in Scotland in 2012-13 – more than 265,000 every day.
In 2014, the rate of antibiotics dispensed by Scottish GPs fell by 1.9 per cent compared with 2013.
But the latest figures from the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group show that antibiotic use in hospitals was 5.9 per cent higher last year than in 2013.
This summer, the English health watchdog NICE threatened to refer ‘soft touch’ family doctors to their regulator, the General Medical Council, if they continued to hand out pills too freely. Officials south of the Border are also considering offering GPs bonuses if they can demonstrate they have successfully curbed prescribing.
It emerged last year that at least £500,000 has been spent by Scottish hospitals buying ‘medical grade’ maggots and other bugs in recent years as medics look for alternatives to antibiotics.
The maggots – larvae of the greenbottle fly – cost about 66p each and 300 of them can quickly clean a badly infected wound, leaving healthy tissue untouched.
Dr Mike Durkin, director of patient safety at NHS England, said: ‘Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to the delivery of healthcare across the globe and these findings clearly show the need for both clinicians and patients to act now and do all they can to behave as responsible stewards of the use of antimicrobial medications.
‘As one of the largest healthcare providers in the world it is vital the NHS is seen to lead that fight against the global problem of antimicrobial resistance so these immensely important medicines can be preserved for now and future generations.’
GPs argue that they come under enormous pressure from pushy patients demanding antibiotics.
They also point out that they cannot tell whether a sore throat or cough has been caused by a virus – which cannot be cured by antibiotics – or bacteria.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: ‘Resistance to antibiotics is a global health threat and this Government and NHS Scotland have been working hard to tackle it.
‘Prudent prescribing and active stewardship of antibiotics has a major role to play in achieving this and significant progress has been made.’
‘Major threat to healthcare’