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Antimicrobial Resistance

Volume 618: debated on Tuesday 20 December 2016

The UK is already a global leader in the fight against AMR. This Government’s leadership has secured a UN declaration on AMR and a commitment from the G20 to drive the development of new antimicrobials. We will continue to deliver international programmes to tackle AMR, including the Fleming fund and the Global AMR innovation fund, which represent more than £300 million of investment over the next five years.

One of the 10 key recommendations of the O’Neill review was to improve the data and surveillance underlying antimicrobial resistance. What plans does the Minister have to routinely test all NHS patients for antibiotic resistance?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that it is essential that we improve diagnostics if we are to tackle this national threat. A routine part of the clinical management of patients showing symptoms of infections is to take a blood sample. When an infection is identified, those samples are indeed tested for resistance. Part of our AMR strategy is to improve diagnostics and to fund innovation in this area.

Will the Government commit themselves to ensuring that their strategy will include discouraging the use of intensive farming, given its overuse of antibiotics which contributes to antimicrobial-resistant problems?

I agree that we must focus on that as well, but we are currently focusing on reducing the need for antibiotics by minimising disease risk in animals through good animal husbandry and on-farm biosecurity. At present, antibiotics provide the only effective means of treatment for a number of animal diseases, and are therefore essential to ensuring the health and welfare of animals. However, we are also working on the matter in an international context with the World Organisation for Animal Health, and we will continue to drive forward the agenda.

What measures are the Government introducing to support the uptake of point-of-care C-reactive protein testing throughout the United Kingdom, given that it is a proven and cost-effective means of reducing levels of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in primary care?

As my hon. Friend says, we must focus on innovation and better diagnostic tests, particularly bedside tests. The Government are actively reviewing evidence of the benefits of CRP tests. Pilot studies in the United Kingdom are contributing to that, and will be evaluated so that we can see how best to build on what can be shown to be working well.

20. Given that 480,000 people develop multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis each year and that drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, what steps has the Secretary of State taken to increase awareness in GP surgeries and to provide alternative treatments that can be equally effective, and what co-operation has taken place with devolved Assemblies? (907992)

I am grateful for that immediate promotion from the hon. Gentleman.

We have made considerable progress in establishing the building blocks of our domestic AMR strategy, including better data, guidance for primary care, and a strengthening of the framework for antimicrobial stewardship, which involves introducing incentives for the NHS to improve the prescribing of antibiotics. That has led, in the last quarter, to the first reduction in such prescribing, which I think we can take as an encouraging sign.

One of the 10 recommendations of the O’Neill review on antimicrobial resistance was for a massive global public awareness campaign. Given that 700,000 people die each year as a result of AMR, and given the review’s estimate that that figure will rise to 10 million a year by 2050, what assurances can the Minister give that she is behind that awareness campaign?

The hon. Lady is right to identify the scale of the challenge, which is why we have put AMR on our national risk register, and she is also right to point out that no one country can tackle AMR alone. The United Kingdom has played a global leadership role. We co-sponsored the World Health Organisation’s 2015 global health plan and created the £265 million Fleming fund so that we could specifically help poor countries to tackle drug resistance, and we will continue to play that global leadership role.

The O’Neill report was published some six months ago and included recommendations for national Governments. What practical progress have the Government made so far?

On 19 September we published our comprehensive response to the report, which describes a range of actions that we will take on each of Lord O’Neill’s recommendations. The most practical progress that I can report is the fact that the prescribing of antibiotics has fallen for the first time since records began. I think that we can all be proud of that progress.