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Overuse of antibiotics threatens the health of future generations

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has this week published guidance warning health professionals of the risks of over prescribing antibiotics.

It is thought that around one in four prescriptions for antibiotics are unnecessary and as a result of patients wrongly believing that antibiotics are the cure for their ailments. The risk is that bugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics which could lead to everyday infections becoming harder and harder to treat.

The guidance asks medical professionals to be wary of their own prescribing and of the prescribing habits of their colleagues. It goes on to state that doctors who continue to prescribe unnecessarily may be subject to disciplinary proceedings by the General Medical Council.

It is currently uncertain as to how this over prescribing will be policed and how the culture will be reversed but this could be dealt with by informing the public too, as well as medical professionals. Separate guidance on antibiotics for members of the public will be published in the New Year.

The danger of antibiotic resistance has been raised by successive Chief Medical Officers. It has been 30 years since a new class of antibiotics has been researched and combating antibiotic-resistant bugs is likely to be one of the biggest challenges to medicine in the future.

 By Gemma Crompton, clinical negligence trainee solicitor