Scottish Government
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Future of infection control

Clinicians, patients and the public must work together to prevent antibiotic resistant infections taking hold - while ensuring that Scotland continues to win the battle against Clostridium difficile.

That was the message from Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon as she addressed an audience of consultants, doctors and specialists at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh today.

The Health Secretary said that Scotland had seen a significant reduction in C.diff rates though there was more to be done. However, she also stressed that the battle against C.diff was not without consequence as it may lead to the emergence of new superbugs - antibiotic-resistant infections.

Ms Sturgeon said:

"Antibiotics have transformed healthcare around the world, saving countless lives. But they are a precious resource and we must ensure that they are used appropriately and that their use is not storing up future problems.

"That's why clinicians - in general practice, hospitals and community settings - must pay close heed to the latest prescribing guidelines which are being updated regularly in light of the latest evidence.

"But the public has a key role to play as well. Too many people believe antibiotics can cure all ills. And too many people expect to get one every time they visit their GP. We all must understand that only prudent prescribing can halt the rise in resistant infections and ensure that when we really need antibiotics that they remain effective.

"Tackling healthcare associated infections is my top priority and antibiotics are a crucial weapon in our armoury. We must safeguard them, use them wisely and pay close attention to the emerging evidence. By doing this, we can continue to reap the benefits of antibiotics for years to come."

Ms Sturgeon also outlined the next steps for the Scottish HAI Task Force, which is currently midway through a three year action plan. These include:

  • Agreeing priorities for HAI and antimicrobial resistance over the next three years
  • Monitoring emerging resistant infections and working with the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group to ensure Scotland's antibiotic prescribing policy remains appropriate
  • Assessing the potential for minimising patient movement within hospitals, in light of findings from bed management pilots.

Work is also underway to address infection prevention - partly through the increased use of vaccination - and decreasing public expectations for an antibiotic.

Ms Sturgeon was speaking at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh Hot Topic Symposium on healthcare associated infections.

The Scottish Management of Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan, a comprehensive five year strategy to reduce inappropriate prescribing and antimicrobial resistance, was launched in March 2008.

The first report of the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group was published on January 26. It is designed to provide a baseline to monitor trends in prescribing and antimicrobial resistance.

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