The UK is one of the few developed countries where antibiotic resistance has fallen in recent years, according to an investigative report from think tanks The King’s Fund, The Health Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Nuffield Trust.
The UK also has the second-lowest rate of use of second-line antibiotics, such as quinolones and cephalosporins, used when a disease is resistant to first-line treatments.
The report, which forms part of a series marking the NHS’s 70th birthday in July 2018, used data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and a range of other public sources to compare access, efficiency and outcomes in the UK health service with 18 similar countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
The UK was found to be “relatively efficient” as it had the largest share of generic prescribing of all the comparator countries, at 84% in 2015 compared with an average of 50%.
The report also highlighted that the NHS provided good financial protection to the public from the consequences of ill health. For example, it had the lowest percentage of people reporting that they had gone without a prescription medicine owing to cost (2.3%).
In the UK, it was found that a higher proportion of out-of-pocket spending went on pharmaceuticals. However, the report suggested that this may be because of prescription charges being one of the few areas where patients pay directly for NHS services.
Despite this, UK households were found to spend a lower share of income on pharmaceuticals (0.6%) than all other countries except France and Germany (both 0.5%).
In 2016, the total level of antibiotic prescribing in the community in the UK was around the average of the EU15 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK).
In the hospital sector, EU data show that the UK had relatively high rates of antibiotic prescribing, although the share of second-line or third-line antibiotics relative to all prescriptions of antibiotics was low.