Nursing leaders have welcomed a range of fresh government commitments in the ongoing fight against superbugs.
These new moves include the appointment of outgoing chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies as the UK’s first special envoy on antimicrobial resistance.
“With this investment we will be able to create the most sophisticated AMR data set globally”
Public health minister Seema Kennedy today confirmed that Dame Professor Sally will take on the new role, which will see her work across all sectors including health, agriculture and the environment.
The announcement follows the publication earlier this year of the government’s 20-year vision and five-year national action plan, setting out how the UK will contribute to containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by 2040.
Last year, the government committed £32m in funding to boost the UK’s work in the global fight against AMR.
The announcement also provided more detail on how that money would be spent, including the development of a state-of-the-art virtual centre to link health outcomes and prescribing data.
The project, to be led by Public Health England (PHE), will gather real-time patient data on resistant infections with the aim of helping clinicians make better choices when prescribing antibiotics and reducing unnecessary prescriptions.
“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest challenges facing modern healthcare”
PHE will also spend £5m on developing a fully functional model ward – said to be the first of its kind in the UK – in a bid to understand how hospital facilities can be designed to reduce the risk of infection.
In all, funding will go to 10 leading research centres across the UK to explore new ways to inform prescribing and identify patterns of resistance.
Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded £4.4m to trial “individualised” approaches to antibiotic prescribing, while the University of Liverpool will get £3.5m to explore how genome sequencing could enable more personalised prescribing.
Ms Kennedy said antibiotic resistance posed an “enormous risk” to the NHS and the health service was already seeing the harmful effect on patient safety.
“This funding to prop up the facilities for novel ideas and technologies, supported by the continued leadership of Dame Sally, will play a vital role in helping us to tackle this threat,” she said.
Dr Susan Hopkins, healthcare epidemiologist consultant in infectious diseases and microbiology at PHE, said innovation was “critical” when it came to tackling the growing challenge of antibiotic resistance.
“With this investment we will be able to create the most sophisticated AMR data set globally, enhancing our ability to monitor AMR and design effective interventions to halt its rise,” she said.
“By increasing our laboratory capacity to study novel agents and the healthcare environment, we’ll be able to take bold steps to preserve antibiotics for when we really need them and improve care and outcomes for patients,” she added.
Professor Dame Sally said she was “honoured” to have been asked to take on the special envoy role.
“AMR is a complex challenge which needs local, national and global action. The UK should be proud of its world-leading work on AMR. We have made tangible progress but it is essential we maintain momentum,” she said.
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The Royal College of Nursing welcomed the plans for investment.
“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest challenges facing modern healthcare and this is a welcome investment to confront this challenge,” said RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control Rose Gallagher.
She highlighted the need to educate healthcare workers and the public and flagged up the RCN’s new education programme.
“The RCN are proud to have launched an innovative education programme to reinvigorate infection control education across health and social care, as a contribution to this global effort,” she said.
“We look forward to the opportunity of working with colleagues across the health and social care sector to tackle this ever increasing risk,” she added.