Government sets out five year plan for tackling “ticking time bomb” of antibiotic resistance

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 11 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5560
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

The Department of Health has set out a five year strategy for tackling the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

In March the chief medical officer, Sally Davies, warned that antimicrobial resistance was a “ticking time bomb” that posed an “apocalyptic” threat similar to that of climate change,1 where deaths from infections could become as common again as they were in the early 19th century. To prevent this, she gave recommendations for slowing development of resistance to current drugs and promoting the development of new types of antibiotics, rapid diagnostics, vaccines and other treatments by working with industry and across government.2

In response to the stark warning, the Department of Health has accepted all the chief medical officer’s recommendations in its five year strategy for action.3 The public health minister, Anna Soubry, said, “This strong, cross government strategy sets out real actions to stay one step ahead and fight antimicrobial resistance both nationally and internationally.”

The strategy outlines national plans for better education, treatment, and monitoring of bacteria, as well as more international cooperation. It includes prevention and management of infections in people and animals through better hygiene and monitoring of bacteria in medical and community settings, and through better farming practices. In addition, there is an emphasis on the need for improved education and training around the prescribing of antibiotics to reduce inappropriate usage and on the need for better surveillance data on developing resistance.

Up to £4m (€4.8m; $6.3m) will be provided to set up a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit to focus on antimicrobial resistance and healthcare associated infections. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will draft quality standards for prescribing, and local prescribing practices for antibiotics will be audited.

Dr Nicholas Brown, president of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, said that the strategy provided “a much needed framework through which government can take responsibility for, and initiate steps to protect, the few antibiotics we have that remain effective against resistant bacteria, and through which encouragement of appropriate use of antibiotics across all sectors can be affected.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5560


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