Over 2m fewer antibiotic prescriptions were dispensed in primary care throughout 2015 compared to the year before, according to data from NHS England.
NHS England officials hailed GPs' efforts to reduce antibiotic use, saying that practices' efforts could help prevent a future health crisis caused by antimicrobial resistance.
GPonline reported last year that antibiotic prescribing by GPs had dropped to a five-year low.
One prize-winning Hertfordshire practice managed to cut antibiotic prescribing 25% and sharply reduce repeat appointments for coughs by introducing a C-reactive protein testing scheme that can determine within four minutes if a patient needs antibiotics.
GP antibiotic prescribing
NHS England added that initiatives such as boosting uptake of the flu vaccine among at-risk groups had made an ‘important contribution to the fight against antimicrobial resistance’.
Vaccinations can help by both preventing infections in the first place and then reducing the need for antibiotics, it said. The UK’s world-leading vaccination programme helps to protect the whole population against preventable infections.
Within the total reduction, use of broad spectrum antibiotics fell by 480,000.
Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie said: ‘Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to health in the UK and globally and taking action to combat it is vital. I am delighted to see the success of the NHS achieving such a significant reduction.’
CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies said: ‘Antibiotics are the cornerstone of modern medicine and we need to do all we can to preserve them. I am really pleased to see that, through a focus on prescribing of antibiotics, we have seen such a real reduction in their inappropriate use.
‘Unnecessary use of antibiotics contributes to an increase in drug resistant infections and it is great to see that England is taking steps to address this.’