Scotland’s GPs have issued the fewest number of prescriptions for antibiotics in quarter of a century, a report has revealed.

Antibiotic use in primary care fell by 10.2% between 2014 and 2018, with the total for last year the lowest since figures were available in 1993.

But the new report by Health Protection Scotland (HPS) found use of the drugs in hospitals is increasing.

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One in three people in hospital are being treated with antibiotics on any given day, the report stated.

Hospital doctors also need to be able to prescribe patients with a greater range of the drugs to help “manage more complex, severe and resistant infections”, it said.

While antibiotics can be vital in the treatment of infections, overprescription of the drugs has led to some conditions becoming resistant to their use.

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HPS found hospitals accounted for 14.1% of the overall use of antibiotics in 2018, with the report stating their use in this setting had increased by 16% from 2014.

Over that period, antibiotic use among Scots as a whole fell by 6.2%, according to HPS.

The report said “reducing the Scottish population’s unnecessary exposure to antibiotics is critical to containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance”.

Dr Gail Haddock, a GP in the NHS Highlands area, who is also the vice-chairwoman of the Scottish Amtimicrobial Prescribing Group, said it was “encouraging to see year-on-year reductions in antibiotic use in primary case since 2013”.

She said: “This demonstrates effective engagement of primary care teams with interventions to improve how infection symptoms are managed and engagement of patients in decisions about prescribing antibiotics.

“However, there is still variation in use of antibiotics for self-limiting infections and longer courses then necessary of antibiotics for common infections.”

She said a “continued focus” on such issues was “required to make further progress and protect our antibiotics for future generations”.

  • Total use in humans has fallen by 6.2% since 2014
  • Antibiotic use in primary care has decreased by 10.2% since 2014
  • Use in acute hospitals has increased 16% since 2014

William Malcolm, clinical lead for the Scottish One Health Antimicrobial Use and Antimicrobial Resistance programme at HPS, said: “Since their discovery, antibiotics have saved millions of lives but inappropriate use reduces our ability to treat infections.

“Next week marks European Antibiotic Awareness Day but it is clear that action to keep antibiotics effective is needed every day.

“By working with health professionals to prevent infections and only taking antibiotics when necessary, we can all play our part in helping to tackle resistance and ensure they continue to save lives in the future.”