The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced plans to tackle the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. It is hoped that changes to funding as well as continued efforts to reduce the amount of antibiotics prescribed to patients will help to reduce the problem. But how will the plans be put in place and what role do GPs have in tackling the issue?
Containing antibiotic resistance by 2040
Drug-resistant superbugs have been described as being as large a threat as global warming, with deaths from drug-resistant superbugs accounting for thousands of deaths each year. The UK government aims to tackle this issue through several measures that are hoped will contain antibiotic resistance levels by 2040.
The Government’s plans will see changes to the funding given to pharmaceutical companies, in a bid to encourage them to produce new medicines. Currently, they are funded based on the amount of antibiotics that are sold, which has encouraged a culture of selling higher numbers of existing antibiotics over producing new ones. The changes will see the Government paying drugs companies based on the value their drugs provide to the NHS, in the hope that this will lead to greater investment for the drugs that are needed the most.
The plans will see antibiotic use reduced in humans by 15% over the next five years, as well as reductions in the amount of antibiotics prescribed to animals.
The role GPs have in reducing antibiotic resistance
GPs are often at the forefront of criticism when it comes to antibiotics. From patients, they face anger and frustration at the unwillingness to prescribe them, while there have been many headlines that have criticised GPs for prescribing them unnecessarily. Some patients are even ordering antibiotics online when GPs refuse, placing GPs in a very difficult position.
However, GPs continue to be active in reducing the use of antibiotics they prescribe to patients. Although the overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the current threat of antibiotic resistance, the agricultural industry has also played a role. The farming industry is also beginning to play its part in reducing antibiotic resistance. The need to change perceptions of antibiotic use and encourage self-care and pharmacy-led treatment for minor ailments is greater than ever.
GPs working in out of hours can help with the efforts of reducing antibiotic resistance, through encouraging treatment through other methods. While out of hours GPs may see less urgent cases from patients demanding antibiotics unnecessarily, it’s still vital to assess whether antibiotics really are the necessary solution for a patient.
If you’re interested in working as an out of hours GP, you can find more information about current vacancies in East Berkshire on our jobs pages.