GPs warned on over use of antibiotics

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Weaning doctors off prescribing catch all antibiotics is key to winning the war against hospital superbugs, it was claimed yesterday.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Weaning doctors off prescribing catch-all antibiotics is key to winning the war against hospital superbugs, it was claimed yesterday.

Prof Lynne Liebowitz, who has overseen a dramatic fall in infection rates at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, told county councillors that much of the battle lay in overcoming the prejudices of the medical profession.

The consultant microbiologist, who joined the QEH in 2005, is a world-renowned authority on hospital-acquired infections. She is also a member of the Department of Health's Cleaner Hospitals Team, which travels the country advising hospitals how they can reduce infections like MRSA.

During a meeting of the county council's health and scrutiny committee, she revealed that switching medicines had seen a drop in infection rates - despite an audit on hand hygiene in September showing disappointing results on cleanliness procedures.

And early signs are that she has repeated the success at a hospital in the North-West of England, after she was called in by health chiefs.

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But Prof Liebowitz, who previously held the chair of microbiology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said: "It's really frustrating if you have got really good infection control, everybody is washing their hands, but the doctors continue to treat with the same antibiotics.

"We are running around in circles trying to stop the patients getting infections."

Currently many hospitals and GPs rely on so-called broad spectrum antibiotics. But these can affect the body's resistance to the bug by killing so-called friendly bacteria as well as those which cause infections.

Prof Liebowitz advised staff at the hospital and local GP practices in West Norfolk to stop administering broad spectrum antibiotics and look at alternatives and last week it emerged that the QEH had hit government targets of halving MRSA cases three years ahead of target.