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Antimicrobial resistance

We are a key stakeholder in the implementation of the Government’s five year strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

The Government’s five year antimicrobial resistance strategy sets out our role in improving professional education and training about antimicrobial resistance.  As well as recommending that the Government campaign internationally for greater recognition of antimicrobial resistance, the strategy outlined how we have a central role in helping to improve the knowledge and understanding of antimicrobial resistance.

To achieve this, we are working to promote awareness of antimicrobial resistance, encourage those prescribing, dispensing and administrating antibiotics to do so responsibly and with an understanding of antimicrobial resistance, and ensure that it is included in the preventing, management and control of infection curricula for human medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and other professionals.

Raising awareness amongst students about responsibly dispensing and administrating antibiotics

We have been working jointly with Public Health England to ensure that the competencies developed by the Government’s expert advisory committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infection for all those prescribing of antimicrobials are embedded into relevant the curricula. Undergraduate students have expressed interest in receiving more education about antimicrobials, especially about their multidisciplinary use, so these competences provide clarity for regulators, education providers and professional bodies on what competencies they should be incorporating, and should inform standards, guidance and the development of training. Implementing them will also help to improve professional education, training and public engagement to improve clinical practice and promote wider understanding of the need for more sustainable use of antimicrobials.

To begin this work, last year we asked higher education institutions about the extent to which these antimicrobial prescribing and stewardship competences have been embedded into their curricula.  We also agreed that we needed to identify whether there are any gap areas in the educational resources that are available to support current prescribers with the prescribing of antimicrobials.

The Health and Social Care Act (2008) states that employers should ensure that all their staff who prescribe medicines should be given induction and training in responsible antimicrobial use and are familiar with the antimicrobial resistance and stewardship competencies. However, according to the results of our survey, available below, not all employers and providers are currently delivering on this.

The report, 'Combating antimicrobial resistance: educational approaches for the responsible prescribing of antimicrobials', outlines the outcomes of the work focussed on current prescribers. It also provides recommendations for further action, to us and partners, including:

  • employers and healthcare providers should consider the role of an antimicrobial resistance education strategy that sets out the training requirements for staff based on national recommendations, and also includes monitoring and reporting arrangements.
  • employers and healthcare providers should ensure that antimicrobial resistance awareness is included as part of mandatory infection prevention and control training targeted for all staff on induction and at every update. Staff should be encouraged to sign up as antibiotic guardians during these sessions.
  • employers and healthcare providers should consider organising targeted awareness training sessions for management and executive teams, for example, senior clinicians and clinical directors on antimicrobial resistance leadership and training.

The recommendations directed at HEE will be taken forward over the coming months.  These include the creation of an educational package for management and executive teams and improving information sharing about existing educational resources.  We will also work with practice educators and others to better understand what types of educational interventions are likely to lead to changes in behaviour in relation to the prescribing of antibiotics.

Awareness raising tools

An introductory free e-learning module, Reducing Antimicrobial Resistance has been developed to support all health and social care staff understands the threats posed by antimicrobial resistance and ways they can help to tackle it. 

We’ve worked with Public Health England to develop two short introductory films about the risks associated with overusing antibiotics. The first film, a guide for GPs on antimicrobial resistance, supports a range of educational materials for GPs and other primary-care prescribers called the TARGET toolkit. This film also introduces a short informative but simple animation that can be used by GPs and other health professionals when speaking with patients about the risks of antibiotic resistance and misuse. The creation of the animation was influenced by the work of the Wellcome Trust in understanding how the public responds to information about antimicrobial resistance.

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