NHS England is to plough £150m into supporting hospital pharmacists to reduce antibiotic prescribing as part of the largest healthcare incentive scheme in the world.
Under the proposals funding will be made available to hospitals, family doctors and other health service providers in an attempt to curb the global health problem of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is at the root of 25,000 deaths a year in Europe alone, with that figure considered an underestimation.
Without action it is thought there could be 10 million deaths globally each year attributable to antibiotic resistance.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to patient safety and the quality of care.
“These measures will build on the vital work the NHS is already doing to tackle the overuse and inappropriate prescription of antibiotics, so that in years to come patients can continue to be protected from otherwise lethal infections.”
The new programme, which goes live in April 2016, will offer hospitals incentive funding worth up to £150 million to support expert pharmacists and clinicians review and reduce inappropriate prescribing.
In addition, a typical local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) with a population of 300,000 people could receive up to £150,000 a year to support GP practices to improve their antimicrobial prescribing.
CCGs are being encouraged to reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed in primary care by 4%, or to the average performance levels of 2013/14.
Hospital trusts will also receive payments for gathering and sharing evidence of antibiotic consumption and review within 72 hours from the beginning of treatment.
Information will be available for commissioners to review on a dedicated website and will allow them to directly monitor progress.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: “The NHS, governments and industry all have key role to play in combating antimicrobial resistance which poses a catastrophic global threat.
“These measures will put the NHS at the forefront of meeting this challenge.”
Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at Public Health England, said: “Tackling antimicrobial resistance is rightly a national and international priority.
“One key action in work to slow resistance is ensuring all antibiotics are appropriately prescribed and that these prescriptions are regularly reviewed.
“I am delighted the NHS is taking action to address this through its Commissioning for Quality and Innovation guidance.”