Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

'Substantial' rise in antibiotic resistance over past five years


The number of people with antibiotic resistant infections in England has increased “substantially” over the past five years, according to a new report.

At the same time, antibiotic consumption in the NHS has also gone up by nearly 7%, which is thought to be contributing to resistance due to inappropriate prescriptions.

The report, published today by Public Health England, has called for “continued focus” from clinicians who prescribe, administer and dispense antibiotics to reduce their use.

“It is vital we ensure prescriptions are given only when they will make a difference to patient outcomes”

Susan Hopkins

Health officials said it would take “a long time” before interventions would begin to show significant improvements at a national level.

New figures for last year collected by PHE found rates of bloodstream infections caused by bacteria Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumonia went up between 2010 and 2014.

Infections from Klebsiella pneumonia increased by around 20%, while those caused by Escherichia coli rose by around 15%.

Resistance among a range of antibiotics used to tackle these infections either increased or remained the same compared to 2010, meaning overall that increasing numbers of people are not responding to their use.

However, Streptococcus pneumoniae bloodstream infections reduced by 23% over the five years. PHE said this may be related to increased pneumococcal vaccination rates.

The data was revealed in PHE’s second report on antibiotic prescribing and resistance under its English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance, launched in 2013.

“Reducing prescribing is a long journey and it will take time before the effects of our various interventions are reflected in surveillance data”

 Susan Hopkins

The report showed that in 2014, the majority of antibiotics in England – 74% – were prescribed in general practice, with 11% for hospital inpatients, 7% for hospital outpatients and the remainder in dental practices or other community settings.

In primary care, although the number of individual antibiotic prescriptions decreased, overall consumption went up by nearly 7% between 2011 and 2014, suggesting longer courses or higher doses were being prescribed.

However, the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics – those effective against a wide range of bacteria and more likely to drive resistance – has reduced in primary care, to around 8% of all antibiotic prescriptions.

Meanwhile, in secondary care, prescribing to hospital inpatients increased significantly by 11% and to hospital outpatients by 8% between 2011 and 2014.

In particular, broad spectrum antibiotics increased and accounted for a third of all of antibiotic prescriptions in NHS trusts in 2014.

Prescriptions for two that should be a last resort for clinicians to use – carbapenems and piperacillintazobactam – went up by 36% and 55%, respectively, from 2010 to 2014.

NHS England’s director of patient safety Dr Mike Durkin urged clinicians and patients to “do all they can to behave as responsible stewards of the use of antimicrobial medications”.

Dr Susan Hopkins, lead author and healthcare epidemiologist at PHE, said: “Whilst this report shows that overall antibiotic prescribing increased in 2014, we must remember that reducing prescribing is a long journey and it will take time before the effects of our various interventions are reflected in surveillance data.

“It is vital that we tackle antibiotic prescribing across the population and ensure prescriptions are given only when they will make a difference to patient outcomes,” she added.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Are enough new anti-biotics being developed? It is alright wanting to reduce prescribing, but if resistance is partly due to a lack of new drugs then that, too, is a timebomb. Flu vaccines are constantly changing, but are anti-biotics?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • No new abx have been developed since mid 1980s - not through lack of trying. It's not as simple as just getting new ones

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs