The number of prescriptions for antibiotics has fallen by over 2.6 million in one year alone, according to figures revealed by NHS Improvement.
Data for this month shows the total number of antibiotics prescribed in primary care was down by 7.3% in one year – a total of 2,696,143 fewer items.
“Healthcare staff across the country should be congratulated for this”
In addition, the unnecessary use of “broad-spectrum” antibiotics, which should be reserved for the treatment of serious infections, has been reduced by 16% – a reduction of over 600,000 items.
It significantly exceeds the 1% reduction target set for the NHS to reduce the use of antibiotics for infections where they are not usually required or for conditions where antibiotics do not work, said NHS Improvement.
The regulator said clinicians should be “congratulated” on the achievement, which follows several years of warnings about the growing risk of antibiotic resistance resulting from over-prescribing.
“We haven’t seen a new strain of antibiotic in over 25 years”
It also highlighted the work of its national Patient Safety Team, which had worked with Public Health England and NHS England to set goals and share data to encourage improvements in antibiotic prescribing.
Dr Mike Durkin, national director for patient safety at NHS Improvement, said: “This fantastic result achieved in just one year is testament to the huge efforts of GPs, pharmacists and local commissioners.
“Healthcare staff across the country should be congratulated for this, and our Patient Safety Team will continue to work with them and with our partners at Public Health England and NHS England to bring these figures down even further,” he said.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “These figures show that healthcare professionals across the UK are taking our warnings about growing resistance to antibiotics, and its terrible consequences, seriously and are working hard to address them.
“Ultimately we need more investment in new drugs – we haven’t seen a new strain of antibiotic in over 25 years,” she said.
“But this won’t happen overnight and in the meantime, we need to continue to work together to make the public realise that prescribing antibiotics is not always the answer to treating minor, self-limiting illness,” she added.