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RCN: 'National antimicrobial resistance strategy needed'

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) believes the creation of a national strategy for improving infection prevention in health care is a vital part of preserving the effectiveness of antimicrobial drugs. 

A position paper published today by the RCN sets out the role of the nursing profession in reducing the risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

Nursing staff form the largest part of the UK health care workforce and are present in every health setting, making their contributions key to local, national, and international initiatives and actions that impact on AMR, the RCN said. 

The RCN has called for a national strategy which would be robust enough to withstand changes of government or NHS reorganisations. 

A review was launched last month into the development of antimicrobial drugs. Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the world could be "cast back into the dark ages of medicine" unless swift action is taken to tackle the threat of resistance. 

In its paper, the RCN recommends that a greater focus on strengthening public health initiatives will provide greatly needed support for people to live well and avoid the need for antibiotics. It argues that more must be done to engage health care workers from across the professions, patients, and the public in this major issue.

Recognising the global nature of the AMR threat, the RCN also proposes that the UK should ensure it includes a nurse envoy in delegations to the World Health Organisation to support nursing leaders in other countries.

Rose Gallagher, RCN adviser for infection prevention and control, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is increasingly recognised as one of the major health challenges of our age. It is hugely worrying that many medicines could become ineffective if we don't get to grips with the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance. 

“This is a global, long-term threat. A robust national strategy on infection prevention and control is essential for reducing the risk of AMR. We cannot risk this issue slipping down the list of priorities or being subject to political whims, so the strategy must be politics-proof.

“Nursing staff have a key role to play in limiting AMR through their leadership and skills supporting infection prevention, antimicrobial stewardship, and public health. The nursing profession is determined to support this important work both in the UK and internationally.”