Government launches action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance

A NEW government plan aims to cut drug-resistant microbial infections by 10 per cent before 2025.

This goal is set out in a 20-year vision and five-year national action plan for how the UK will contribute to containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by 2040.

The government wants to reduce the use of antibiotics in humans by 15 per cent and prevent at least 15,000 patients from contracting infections as a result of their healthcare each year by 2024.

The plan also covers the use of antibiotics in animals, with the government committed to working with vets and farmers to reduce antibiotic use by 25 per cent between 2016 and 2020.

The initiative will also be targeted at pharmaceutical companies who will be expected to take more responsibility for antibiotic resistance, with NICE and NHS England exploring a new payment model based on how valuable medicines are to the NHS rather than on the quantity sold.

AMR is predicted to kill 10 million people every year by 2050 without action, with everyday operations like caesarean sections or hip replacements possibly becoming too dangerous to perform.

The UK has cut the amount of antibiotics it uses by more than 7 per cent since 2014 and sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals have dropped by 40 per cent. But the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections has increased by 35 per cent from 2013 to 2017.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said: "Antimicrobial resistance is as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare. That’s why we need an urgent global response.

"The UK has taken a global lead by setting out a 20-year AMR vision explaining the steps we must take nationally and internationally to rise to this challenge. It fits into a pattern of work across the world to keep this driving forward."

Responding to the launch of the Government plan, BMA public health medicine committee chair, Dr Peter English, expressed fears over the impact of Brexit on the initiative.

"It is important that the Government is making progress in addressing what is a serious threat to public health care and, as such, recognises the importance of international collaboration to truly tackle the scale of the problem.

"Given however, the significant disruption that Brexit is likely to cause both in the immediate and long-term, the BMA is concerned that such efforts may be thwarted, particularly if the UK’s relationship with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is compromised.

"Antimicrobial resistance, like many other threats such as infectious disease outbreaks and climate change, is not confined by borders. Cooperation with Europe is therefore paramount to research and surveillance efforts that can better enable us to plan for pandemics and respond to global health threats.

"This is one the more alarming examples of how Brexit could potentially pose a massive threat to public health and the Government must act now to prevent this from becoming a reality.”