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Experts seek antibiotic 'rollback'

Experts are set to call for national rollback targets on antibiotic prescribing to halt the rise in resistance to the drugs which has been described as "one of the major health challenges of our age".

GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and pharmacists will gather at a summit in London to discuss the issue which has been compared to climate change in terms of its impact on human health.

Leading experts from across the professional spectrum are calling for national measures to be implemented across the NHS without delay.

The headline measure that is being called for is to roll back total consumption of antibiotics to 2010 levels in both community and hospital settings.

Public Health England reported in October that between 2010 and 2013 there was a 6% increase in the combined antibiotic prescribing of GPs and hospitals.

For the first time, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Public Health, in collaboration with Public Health England and the Department of Health, are coming together to find solutions to the problem.

Professor John Watson, deputy chief medical officer, will open the Antimicrobial Resistance Summit and discuss the action needed by health professionals across the NHS.

Philip Howard, consultant pharmacist in antimicrobials and spokesman for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: "Antibiotics save lives.

"Anyone who comes to my hospital with an infection will get an antibiotic promptly when it is the right choice of treatment.

"I believe we will be able to meet these challenging targets by ensuring we all use antibiotics more carefully, and by fine tuning or stopping the antibiotic when test results are known.

"Where an infection is proven, we need to complete the course of antibiotics.

"This will lead to better patient care as well as reduced resistance.

"I believe these two aims are compatible and mutually supportive."

Rose Gallagher, Royal College of Nursing adviser for infection prevention and control, said: "Antimicrobial resistance is increasingly recognised as one of the major health challenges of our age.

"It is worrying that many antibiotics could become ineffective if we don't get to grips with the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance."

Dr Susan Hopkins, lead on healthcare associated infections for the Royal College of Physicians, said "we must reduce prescribing to the lowest safest levels".

Professor Nigel Mathers, honorary s ecretary of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "Antibiotics can work brilliantly as long as they are properly prescribed and used appropriately, but we have developed a worrying reliance on them and some of our patients now see them as a cure-all."

He said alternatives should be pointed out to patients who ask for antibiotics to treat viral illnesses.

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