Scottish Daily Mail

New an­tibi­otic alert

Doc­tors hand out more and more even though they can’t beat new in­fec­tions

- By So­phie Bor­land and Gra­ham Grant g.grant@dai­ly­

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’

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