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Julian Sturdy - Strong Voice for York Outer

Julian Sturdy

Member of Parliament for York Outer

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Julian presses for government action on pandemic-style antibiotic resistance threat

December 8, 2021

Julian yesterday used a parliamentary debate on antibiotic resistance to urge Health Ministers to take further steps to tackle this serious public health challenge, which has the potential to be even more dangerous than coronavirus.

Antibiotic resistance is when disease bacteria change in response to antibiotics being used against them, and become able to resist medicines, fuelled by the over-prescribing of antibiotics. This means vital treatments for common infectious diseases cease to work, with conditions like TB and pneumonia already proving harder to treat as a result. Growing of resistance could even make routine procedures like hip replacements and caesareans too dangerous.

A projected 10 million people could die globally each year by 2050 due to growing antibiotic resistance, and it is already linked to 50,000 deaths annually across Europe and North America. The UK already plays a major leadership role in the world effort on resistance, the looming threat of which has been thrown into sharper focus by the recent pandemic.

In his speech, Julian urged the government to assess the extent to which coronavirus will have increased the scale of the antibiotic resistance problem, with the treatment of people sick with covid meaning huge, uncoordinated deployment of different antibiotic medicines worldwide, giving bacteria a big opportunity to become more resistant and dangerous.

He encouraged Ministers to consider increasing the funding allocated to finding a solution to resistance through developing new antibiotics, given the cost of the UK’s response to the equivalent threat of coronavirus, which has arguably altered our perspective on what is affordable to protect public health.

He proposed raising the £10 million cap for the government’s new antibiotics project subscription trial as an example of sensible increased investment, and stressed the need for all government departments to be aware of the impact of antibiotic resistance in their areas, citing his recent work on potentially amending the government’s Environment Bill to address resistance through water and sewage.

Julian also suggested the government should do more to support the development of lab capacity in poorer and middle income countries, as the absence of sufficient medical microbiological facilities is a major factor in the mistaken prescribing of antibiotics that increases resistance worldwide. Without these facilities and trained staff overseas, it is harder for health systems to identify which drug needs to be matched to which disease.

As a step towards this, he urged the Department of Health to listen to calls, such as those from the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, for the creation of a global antimicrobial stewardship accreditation scheme to ensure co-operation across health and research systems and generalise global good practice.

After the debate, Julian said: “I was glad that the Health Minister responding noted my suggestions about supporting countries overseas to combat antibiotic resistance so that it doesn’t spread to this country, and emphasised the government’s commitment to continue its efforts in this area.

Given the potential scale of the public health threat from growing resistance, I thought it was vital to press the government on this, letting them know I and other MPs expect work on this challenge to be continued and stepped up.

The pandemic has highlighted the need to be more vigilant in anticipating future health emergencies. I will continue lobbying on this vital and often-overlooked health matter to protect my constituents.”