A rising number of hospital admissions across England have been linked to antimicrobial resistance, new figures reveal.
Researchers have warned that drug-resistant infections could pose a greater public health risk than Covid unless urgent action is taken.
Hospital admissions on the rise
NHS Digital data shows there were around 93,700 hospital admissions with a diagnosis of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) recorded in 2019-20.
This marks a significant jump from 90,200 in the previous year, and from 64,300 in 2014-15 - the earliest year with available data.
The national figures include activity in NHS hospitals and some NHS-commissioned activity in the independent sector.
The figures, which are rounded to the nearest five, can include admissions for which AMR was the main reason, or a contributing factor.
Why is AMR a problem?
AMR happens when germs build up resistance to treatments, such as bacteria to antibiotics.
When this happens it means that medicines can no longer fight the infections they were developed to treat.
It has led to the emergence of so-called superbugs such as MRSA, which are resistant to various types of antibiotic, and can also hinder cancer treatments as patients become more vulnerable to infection.
A recent World Health Organisation report warned that the world was failing to develop “desperately needed” antibacterial treatments, despite the growing awareness of the urgent threat posed by AMR.
Professor Colin Garner, chief executive of Antibiotic Research UK, a charity working to tackle the threat of drug-resistant infections, explains: “The rising trend in antibiotic-resistant infections year on year highlights the increasing risk that antibiotic resistant infections pose to our society.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated what happens when the world is ill-prepared for the spread of infectious disease.
“Whilst Covid is a virus that is treatable through vaccination, there are no vaccines to treat the most common resistant infections.”
Prof Garner said the Government needs to commit more funding and resources to fighting AMR, adding: “Otherwise, we may be facing another pandemic, this time without the possibility of a vaccine.”
The British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, which campaigns to tackle AMR, said that some of the increase was due to improved recording.
The charity is calling on the Government to appoint a Cabinet minister with responsibility for coordinating efforts to fight AMR.
Dr David Jenkins, president-elect of BSAC, said: “AMR increasingly presents a fundamental challenge to the continuing ability of the NHS to provide healthcare in areas such as intensive care, cancer services and surgery.”
However, the rise of drug-resistant bacteria could render such treatments “too risky” unless decisive action is taken.
AMR admissions across NHS Trusts
These are the 50 NHS trusts in England which had the highest number of admissions episodes with a diagnosis of AMR in 2019-20.
Data is listed by NHS trust, followed by the total number of admissions.
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 3,535
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – 2,495
Barts Health NHS Trust – 2,280
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust – 2,055
London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust – 1,975
Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust – 1,970
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust – 1,745
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 1,545
East Suffolk And North Essex NHS Foundation Trust – 1,525
University Hospitals Of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust – 1,515
Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 1,495
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust – 1,470
University Hospitals Of Leicester NHS Trust – 1,405
South Tyneside And Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust – 1,395
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 1,365
Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children NHS Foundation Trust – 1,365
Calderdale And Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust – 1,350
Royal Devon And Exeter NHS Foundation Trust – 1,240
King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 1,165
Norfolk And Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 1,150
St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 1,095
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust – 1,095
Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 1,080
University Hospitals Of North Midlands NHS Trust – 1,080
East And North Hertfordshire NHS Trust – 1,080
Chelsea And Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 1,055
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – 1,030
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 970
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 965
Lewisham And Greenwich NHS Trust – 965
Barking, Havering And Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust – 890
West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – 890
Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust – 885
Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust – 880
Doncaster And Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 835
The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 835
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 825
Northern Lincolnshire And Goole NHS Foundation Trust – 815
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust – 805
Guy's And St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust – 800
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 795
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust – 790
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust – 785
Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 775
North Bristol NHS Trust – 765
Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 755
Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 745
Whittington Health NHS Trust – 735
St Helens And Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – 725
Croydon Health Services NHS Trust – 720
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