Pharmacists have an equally important role as carers and nurses in helping to curtail inappropriate antibiotic use, new research has suggested.

Published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, the study found that 50% of care home residents in the UK are prescribed at least one antibiotic drug a year.

Researchers from Boots, Public Health England and NHS Improvement collected data between November 2016 and October 2017. A total of 341,536 residents in long-term care facilities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were analysed.

The study found in total, across the country, 52.1% of the residents were dispensed one antibiotic within the 12 months, 27.5% were given two different antibiotics, 12.9% took three different antibiotics, and 5.1% were dispensed four different antibiotics.

It also found:

  • 56.6% of care-home residents in Northern Ireland received at least one antibiotic prescription
  • 53.2% of care-home residents in Scotland received at least one antibiotic prescription
  • 48.5% of care-home residents in England received at least one antibiotic prescription
  • 45.0% of care-home residents in Wales received at least one antibiotic prescription

Reducing inappropriate antibiotic prescribing by 50% by 2020 was set by the Government in 2016, in response to the global concern surrounding antimicrobial resistance.

Boots UK chief pharmacist, Marc Donovan, said the study shows how pharmacists too, not just nurses and carers, can help meet this target.

Mr Donovan added: ‘The NHS Long Term Plan, released earlier this month, recognises that many people living in care homes are not having their needs assessed and addressed as well as they could be.

‘This research highlights that there is a real opportunity for community pharmacy to play an even greater role in supporting the safe and effective use of medicines, and continue to support the implementation and delivery of the government’s five-year action plan on antimicrobial resistance.’

The authors suggested pharmacists can recommend more home remedies, help carers to spot signs of illness earlier on, ensure antibiotics have been appropriately prescribed, and give advice on their effective use.

It also recommends pharmacists work closely with carers in care homes to prevent the spread of disease by encouraging the use of vaccinations and adequate hydration.