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Nursing homes over-prescribing antibiotics

Published on 09 January 2014 02:00 PM

A new report suggests there is a ‘problem' with antibiotic prescribing in nursing homes as figures show levels are double what would be expected.


Work by a leading doctor shows residents in nursing homes are receiving twice as many antibiotics as their peers who live in their own homes.

Dr Michael Moore, national clinical champion for antimicrobial stewardship at the Royal College of General Practitioners, told the Science and Technology Committee that more needs to be done to address the high level of prescribing within nursing homes.

Over-prescribing ‘means that people risk becoming resistant'

He added: 'I've recently done some work looking at antibiotic prescribing in nursing homes, which is not yet published, but it shows that if you take into account the other illnesses, the rate of antibiotic prescribing in nursing homes is around double what you would expect for that population.

'There is a problem with antibiotic prescribing in nursing homes.'

Dr Susan Hopkins, chair of the healthcare associated infections working group at the Royal College of Physicians, told the Committee: 'I have recently taken over the oversight group looking at the English surveillance programme for antimicrobial resistance.

'As part of that we have been gathering information at a CCG (clinical commissioning group) level for primary care and also from hospitals to understand what is happening at ecological levels across the country.

Antibiotics ‘handed out unnecessarily for mild illnesses'

'What we can see is that there is a five-fold variation in prescribing across practices.

'Some of that can be explained by the age-structure of the populations, but some of it cannot.

'What we are looking at is trying to understanding this information better; what particular antibiotics are being prescribed across the country? Is it related to deprivation?'

Over-prescribing of antibiotics means that people risk becoming resistant to the drugs, health chiefs have warned, claiming that within two decades routine operations could become life threatening if patients are no longer able to combat infection.

The issue has been raised before by Professor Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, who described the rising threat of resistance as one of the biggest threats to today's health.

More awareness of how antibiotics work is needed

She highlighted how antibiotics are being handed out unnecessarily for mild illnesses. This was reiterated to MPs who heard that half of the UK are unaware that antibiotics are not an effective treatment for colds, flu and viruses.

Making the public aware about how antibiotics work needs to be one of the issues at the top of the agenda, the committee was told.

'My team have been asked to look at whether we can run a broader public health campaign about antimicrobial resistance in this country,' said Public Health England's director of public health strategy, Professor Anthony Kessel.

Copyright Press Association 2014

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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