Press release

Hospitals urged to think hard before using antibiotics

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Department of Health has today published new guidance on the use of antibiotics in hospitals ahead of European Antibiotics Awareness Day

Doctors and nurses are being asked to think twice before they prescribe antibiotics in a bid to prevent patients being given them too much and developing resistance to these life saving drugs.

The Department of Health has today published new guidance on the use of antibiotics in hospitals ahead of European Antibiotics Awareness Day on Friday 18 November.

The new guidance, ‘Start Smart, Then Focus’, provides hospital prescribers with best practice advice on antimicrobial prescribing. It will help ensure patients receive the right drug, at the right time, at the right dose and the right duration for the individual - avoiding unnecessary lengthy duration of antibiotic treatment and inappropriate use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Misuse of antibiotics is causing bacteria to become resistant. Some antibiotics aren’t as effective as they used to be because the bacteria they are designed to tackle have become resistant to them. These important medicines need to be used wisely to maximise the NHS’s ability to treat infections in the future. 

The increase in antibiotic resistance is a major concern which needs action at a global level. It is essential that antibiotics are used in the right way to slow down resistance and this is what the guidance seeks to help health professionals do.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, said:

“Many antibiotics are currently prescribed and used when they don’t need to be - meaning antibiotics lose their effectiveness at a rapidly increasing rate.

“This guidance will help ensure better use of antibiotics in hospitals and treatment tailored for individual patient needs. 

“It is important we use antibiotics in the right way if we are to get the best outcome for the patient, slow down resistance and make sure these important medicines continue to stay effective for ourselves and for future generations.”

Professor Mike Sharland, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infection (ARHAI), said:

“This new national guidance is an important addition to the tools available to help healthcare professionals in tackling the serious problems of antibiotic resistance and healthcare associated infection.

“The guidance encourages all hospital prescribers to use the most effective antibiotic as fast as possible to treat serious infections, then review the treatment 48 hours later. 

“This guidance will help ensure that all patients get the right antibiotic at the right time, every time, but are not exposed to medicines they do not need.”

The Department of Health has also published a range of materials on its website to support European Antibiotic Awareness Day local activity and will be screening a series of animated videos via Life Channel in GP surgeries across the country to remind people to take care, not antibiotics, for coughs and colds

Notes to Editors

1.The Department of Health’s Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infection (ARHAI) have developed this new guidance for the optimal use of antibiotics in hospital patients. A copy of the guidance can be found on the Department of Health website.

It will also be developing additional guidance for GPs in 2012.

  1. The Code of Practice on the prevention and control of infection (found on the Department of Health website) includes having procedures in place to ensure prudent prescribing with an ongoing programme of audit, revision and update.

  2. The CQC will consider antibiotic prescribing practices when looking at cleanliness and infection control in hospitals. 

  3. The UK is signed-up to the WHO European Strategic Action Plan on Antibiotic Resistance which encourages sharing of information, developing effective interventions to prevent and slow down the development of multi-resistant bacteria, and working together to stimulate the development of new drugs and diagnostics.

  4. Antibiotic resistance is a complex global public health issue. To tackle it effectively requires an integrated approach at a national, European and international level. In England our strategy has 3 key elements which include: monitoring of infections, promoting responsible prescribing and use of antibiotics, and good infection prevention and control measures. This new guidance is an example of how we have put this strategy into practice to deliver a product which can be used by healthcare professionals in the NHS.

The Department of Health has also published a range of materials on its website to support best practice prescribing and local EAAD activities.

  1. For media queries, please contact the Department of Health Newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.

  2. For media queries on European Antibiotics Awareness Day, please contact the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control press office on +46 (0)8 586 01 678 or press@ecdc.europa.eu.