Thérèse Coffey wants people to be able to get antibiotics from the chemist without asking a doctor – despite professor warning that ‘nuts’ plan could make drugs less effective
- Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey wants patients to get antibiotics without GP ok
- Patients will be able to get drugs directly from chemist to clear up GP wait lists
- But leading Cambridge biologist Prof Stephen Baker branded the plan ‘moronic’
- Chris Whitty had to convince her overuse could lead to medicine-resistant bugs
Thérèse Coffey has been branded ‘moronic’ by a Cambridge microbiology professor over her ‘nuts’ plans to let patients get antibiotics without seeing a GP which could increase the prevalence and dangers of drug-resistant bacteria like MRSA.
The Health Secretary has lobbied to allow chemists to prescribe antibiotics without a doctor’s diagnosis to help clear up GP waiting lists – similar to a scheme in Scotland.
The drugs will still not be available over the counter but will be available if a pharmacist thinks a patient may have certain conditions.
Cambridge University‘s Professor Stephen Baker, an expert in molecular microbiology and antimicrobial resistance, said that overuse of antibiotics would lead to higher chances of drug-resistant disease.
Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey (pictured) has lobbied to allow chemists to prescribe antibiotics without a doctor’s diagnosis to help clear up GP waiting lists
Cambridge University’s Professor Stephen Baker (pictured), an expert in molecular microbiology and antimicrobial resistance, said that overuse of antibiotics would lead to higher chances of drug-resistant disease and branded the Health Secretary’s plans ‘nuts’
Ms Coffey had to be persuaded by chief medical officer Chris Whitty to take the catastrophic consequences of medicine-resistant superbugs caused by antibiotic overuse seriously, The Times reports
Prof Baker told the newspaper that Ms Coffey’s proposal was ‘nuts’, adding that to say we shouldn’t worry about ‘one of the biggest problems humanity is facing in respect of infectious disease at the moment is… moronic’.
Ms Coffey, also deputy Prime Minister, has also admitted giving friends and family her prescribed antibiotics when they felt unwell, which has been called ‘staggeringly irresponsible’ and ‘utter recklessness’ by doctor and writer Rachel Clarke.
However, officials denied that she ‘thinks anyone should just be able to get antibiotics’ and that these were questions from when she started the role several weeks ago.
Overuse of antibiotics causes bacteria to evolve resistance to commonly used antibiotics, resulting in common infections becoming deadlier due to lack of effective treatment.
And vital cancer treatments and surgeries may become too dangerous due to the higher risk of untreatable infections.
Former doctor-come-comedian Adam Kay, writer of autobiographical bestseller This is Going to Hurt and its follow up hit TV adaptation sarcastically commented on Twitter: ‘Ah well, we had nearly 100 years of antibiotics working.’
But the Department for Health and Social Care say claim pharmacists prescribing antibiotics for UTI infections could save 400,000 GP appointments per year and around £8.4million, extrapolating from data from Scotland.
They estimate that around 1,000 out of 27,000 community pharmacists are qualified to prescribe certain medicines.
From early next year, NHS England will start piloting services with a prescribing element in at least one ‘pathfinder’ site per regional integrated care board (ICB), using existing community pharmacy prescribers.
Overuse of antibiotics causes bacteria to evolve resistance to commonly used antibiotics, resulting in common infections becoming deadlier due to lack of effective treatment. Pictured: Pharmacist holding medicine pack and medicine bottle in a chemist
A spokesperson for Thérèse Coffey said: ‘The Secretary of State has explored a range of policy options to relieve pressure on GPs, including whether it is possible to allow greater prescribing by pharmacists – as happens in many places, including Scotland.
‘These wide-ranging discussions included reflections on the importance of antimicrobial resistance and societal behaviours around antibiotics.
‘The outcomes of these discussions were contained in the Secretary of State’s ABCD Plan for Patients, which set out policies to expand the range of services available from community pharmacies.’