News story

PHE welcomes publication of Science and Technology Committee report on antibiotic resistance

Public Health England leading 4 key areas of cross-government strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Public Health England (PHE) welcomes the publication of the Science and Technology Committee Select committee report on antimicrobial resistance. Experts from PHE provided evidence to the committee which is cited in the report.

Following on from the annual report of the Chief Medical Officer which documented the seriousness of the threat of antimicrobial resistance the Department of Health prepared a 5-year cross government strategy to tackle it.

PHE is leading the implementation of 4 of the 7 key areas where improvements need to be made by bringing together all relevant partners from across the health and social care sector.

The 4 key areas are:

  • improving infection prevention and control practices to reduce the number of infections in patients
  • optimising prescribing practice
  • improving professional education, training and public engagement
  • enabling better access to and use of surveillance data

Key achievements include:

  • The establishment of the English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance (ESPAUR). This is designed to develop and maintain robust information and surveillance systems to measure antimicrobial utilisation and its impact on resistance and patient safety in England.

  • For the first time in one place, we will have detailed information available about antibiotic prescribing trends in both primary and secondary care. Hospitals and GP surgeries will be able to see how their level of prescribing compares against both a national benchmark and also with other local surgeries or healthcare facilities. Its first annual report will be published in the autumn.

  • The publication of the toolkit on how to manage a particular type of antibiotic resistant bacteria called carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae which is an area of concern as bacteria with this mechanism are resistant to carbapenem antibiotics which are those usually used as ‘last resort’.

  • PHE is working with Health Education England to improve education and training for prescribing clinicians. Achieving the best ‘drug-bug’ combination will be a major step forwards and this is also part of the remit of the ESPAUR group.

  • Raising awareness in the general public is also very important and PHE continues to contribute to awareness-raising of this issue through the media as well as via the European Antibiotic Awareness day which is held every November. The behavioural insights team at PHE are working with both the ESPAUR group and other external stakeholders on ways to further raise awareness of this issue.

Professor Anthony Kessel, Director of International Public Health at PHE, said:

No-one can underestimate the challenge of trying to control the development of antibiotic resistance. However, we do know what elements feed into the cycle of resistance and we are implementing a wide range of programmes to help address some of those issues.

There is a lot more to be done but for the first time we will have detailed information available about antibiotic prescribing trends. This will show which antibiotics are being used and to what degree, in both the hospital and GP setting. This will then inform where we need to make changes in prescribing in order to preserve what must be one of the most important medicines of our time.