Press release

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR): improving prescribing practice

The latest edition of Health matters says reducing unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics can play an important role in tackling AMR.

Health matters inforgraphic

Antimicrobial resistance: improving prescribing practice is the second edition of Public Health England’s Health matters resource for public health professionals, designed to support commissioning and the delivery of services across local areas.

GP surgeries and hospitals can expect to see an influx of patients over the winter months often expecting antibiotics to treat common flu symptoms such as coughs and colds. While some infections that cause these symptoms are bacterial, flu is caused by influenza viruses which do not respond to antibiotics.

Encouraging patients to visit a pharmacist in the first instance is a key message in work to tackle resistance; pharmacists can provide effective over-the-counter treatments to help relieve the symptoms of self-limiting illnesses, reducing the chance of patients being prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily.

This edition of Health matters sets out how healthcare professionals can deal with patient demand and reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing by:

  • using PHE’s prescribing toolkits
  • involving patients in shared decision making
  • issuing delayed prescriptions
  • encouraging good hygiene practices such as hand washing
  • comparing prescribing practice with peers

PHE recently published the second annual report from the English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance (ESPAUR) which showed that although the total number of prescriptions dispensed has decreased, total antibiotic consumption in primary care increased by 6.5% between 2011 and 2014.

Drawing on the latest antibiotic prescribing data, this new edition of Health matters sets out the scale of the problem in England, before focusing on what works to help reduce inappropriate prescribing. Supporting interventions to reduce antibiotic prescribing is one of the key areas highlighted in the UK cross-government Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) strategy.

The resource brings together in one easily accessible package local and national level data, as well as campaigning and social marketing resources – all presented in an easy-to-use, engaging format that will help make the case for antimicrobial stewardship and responsible prescribing. By bringing together transparent data on prescribing in this way, Health matters will support healthcare providers to develop local action plans in their organisations.

Also forming part of Health matters is information about the PHE led Antibiotic Guardian campaign. Antibiotic Guardian allows the public and healthcare professionals to take action in helping to slow resistance, by making a pledge about how they can personally prevent infections and make better use of antibiotics.

Launching Health matters today, PHE Chief Executive Duncan Selbie, said:

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem and represents a major threat to public health. We rely heavily on antibiotics and the pressure on healthcare professionals to prescribe is great, even when they are not needed.

We need to conserve antibiotics and use them appropriately or we risk losing the power of these medicines.

This second edition of Health matters focuses on inappropriate use and overuse of antibiotics and sets out how local authorities and the NHS can work together to tackle one of the most significant threats to public health.

PHE has shared and tested the resource widely with stakeholders, which has provided invaluable feedback.

Michael Moore, Professor of Primary Care at Southampton University, said:

This edition sets out clearly the scale of the challenge facing us all in England and provides signposts for practical solutions to addressing unnecessary prescribing that are achievable and can be delivered at a local level.

I found Health matters a really useful resource, particularly the infographics and the short pdf version of the content, which I can use in my own presentations. The information is clear and concise and can help highlight the dangers of antimicrobial resistance.

Harpal Dhillon, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Expert Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, said:

Antimicrobial resistance is an ever increasing issue and the messages contained in this edition of Health matters reflect the current situation we are facing.

All healthcare professionals, including pharmacists have a role to play in slowing down antimicrobial resistance. It is therefore important to circulate this content to all pharmacists in all sectors as a resource to help educate their patients about the need to use antibiotics appropriately.

Sign up to get regular updates about Health matters.


  1. The second edition of Health matters on antimicrobial resistance: improving prescribing practice was launched today (10 December 2015) by PHE Chief Executive Duncan Selbie via a national teleconference to an audience of leading public health and AMR professionals.
  2. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook:
  3. Health matters on antimicrobial resistance: improving prescribing practice’ is available .
  4. The Health matters resource will be supported and linked to a wide range of content, some will be released today and further content will be published throughout the coming month across a variety of channels.
  5. Read the 2015 ESPAUR report.
  6. Read the UK cross-government Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Strategy.

Public Health England press office

Published 10 December 2015