Northern Ireland’s antibiotic use is the highest in the UK, with prescribing rates currently 30% higher than in England, according to Michael McBride, chief medical officer for the country. Most antibiotics prescriptions were issued by GPs, but 8% were prescribed by dentists.
In his latest annual report, Your Health Matters, McBride said that while there has been a 10% reduction in antibiotic prescribing over the last ten years, Northern Ireland still needs to take urgent steps to preserve the drugs’ efficacy.
To that end, he said that during 2016–2017 more than half of Northern Irish GP practices allocated a member of staff to become an “antibiotic champion”, and that during 2017–2018 several GP practices will pilot finger-tip blood tests to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections. He added that prescription levels in dental practice were also being looked at.
McBride highlighted the part that Northern Ireland’s pharmacists play in antimicrobial stewardship, pointing out that “modern pharmacists’ roles involve prescribing, medication reviews, advising medical and nursing staff and patients on the safe and appropriate use of medicines, as well as supplying medicines”.
He also said that he had previously worked with Mark Timoney, Northern Ireland’s chief pharmaceutical officer, to produce the Northern Ireland Medicines Optimisation Quality Framework, which makes recommendations to promote better use of medicines, including antibiotics.