Coalition calls for testing to tackle threat of AMR

A cross-sector coalition of health and diagnostics organisations is calling for urgent action to combat the imminent threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Led by the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA), the coalition is highlighting missed opportunities to use proven diagnostic technology that can help to reduce prescribing of antibiotics when they are not needed.

Supporting the coalition, former Minister for Vaccines and Public Health, and current Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diagnostics, Maggie Throup MP, who was responsible for the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine, said: “I am deeply concerned about the slow progress that has been made to support the use of point-of-care tests as part of the UK’s antimicrobial stewardship efforts. AMR is a tremendous threat, and it is critical that we don’t miss opportunities to slow the progress of resistance. That is why we are calling on the government to prioritise the effective adoption of point of care testing in community and primary care settings.

“The pandemic underlined that the government and health system can move quickly to roll out diagnostics and respond to major health threats – we must act now, with the same urgency, to tackle the problem of AMR.”

As well as BIVDA, other bodies which are signatories to the statement are: Institute of Biomedical Science; The Royal College of Pathologists; Antibiotic Research UK; Asthma + Lung UK; Community Pharmacy England; Abbott Rapid Diagnostics; Éclateral;  HORIBA; and LumiraDx.

Pictured above are: (left to right) Dr Jayne Ellis, BIVDA’s AMR Lead; Maggie Throup MP; former Health Minister and MP for Colchester Will Quince; and BIVDA Chief Executive Helen Dent.

Deaths in the UK related to AMR are estimated to stand at 12,000 per year, the equivalent of deaths from breast cancer each year. Ten million people each year are predicted to die globally from AMR by 2050 unless urgent measures are taken.

Coming together to set out a call to action for government and the NHS, the cross-sector coalition has expressed concern over the extended delays to implementing key recommendations on using point-of-care tests to tackle AMR.

Helen Dent, Chief Executive of BIVDA, commented: “It has been almost eight years since the O’Neill Review made its findings on using rapid diagnostics to tackle AMR and very little progress has been made since then. It's imperative that we use everything at our disposal to tackle AMR – and that must start with the technologies that are available right now to help reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing. COVID-19 gave a blueprint for rapid action – it shows there is no excuse for the long delays in implementing recommendations that can help slow the progress of AMR.” 

Unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are a significant factor in causing AMR. Whilst there are simple point-of-care tests that can be used to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, these tests are not routinely funded in community and primary care settings. The cross-sector statement urges action in the short, medium and long term to ensure that health systems prioritise funding and adoption of point-of-care testing.

The NHS sets out the following steps as being necessary to tackle AMR:

  • early prevention of infections
  • timely, accurate diagnosis
  • appropriate prescribing and use of antimicrobials only when there is an infection for which they are the most appropriate treatment
  • effective management of infections
  • development of alternatives to current antimicrobials.

The use of diagnostics is key to the first four of these steps. This consensus statement sets out clearly how the NHS can achieve this and begin to save money and lives.

The statement specifically recognises the immediate impact that C-Reactive Protein testing (CRP) at the point of care (POC) can have on antibiotic prescribing by facilitating decisions to exclude patients from unnecessary antibiotic treatments, contributing significantly to the global fight against AMR and improving patient outcomes.

By the end of 2024, the statement calls upon NHS England (NHSE) to endorse the integration of POC CRP in Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) Hub pilots to bolster the accumulation of evidence regarding the test’s value and its influence on antibiotic prescription, patient outcomes, and experience. This demands proper resourcing for ARI Hubs to maintain POCT capacity and implementing governance measures to evaluate the impact of POCT access. Over the next four years, DHSC, alongside NHSE, is being urged to introduce a primary care incentive promoting the integration of POC CRP in respiratory care pathways.

In alignment with the UK's 20-Year Vision for Antimicrobial Resistance and the Government’s upcoming 5-Year Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, the statement stresses the importance of policies that actively support the uptake of POCT. This includes measures to integrate POCT seamlessly into existing healthcare frameworks.

You can read the consensus statement here.


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