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PHE steps up battle against AMR and HCAIs

Public Health England (PHE) is to use £5m funding to develop a fully functional model ward, the first of its kind in the UK, to better understand how hospital facilities can be designed to improve infection control and reduce the transmission of antibiotic-resistant Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs).


The announcement is one of several new commitments in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Outgoing Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies is to become a UK special envoy on AMR working across all sectors - including health, agriculture and the environment - to deliver a ‘One Health’ response.


A PHE blog outlines the new model ward will be a flexible and modular facility that will simulate a four-bed ward, isolation room with lobby and assisted shower room among other features. Similar modular facilities were created during the Ebola outbreak of a few years ago and this experience will be used in the creation of this new facility. 


The model ward will enable external researchers to trial approaches that would be impractical and disruptive to implement in a working environment. It is expected to be operational towards the end of 2020 and based at PHE Porton.


The project team are expected to work actively with the research community to identify research questions to improve understanding of the transmission and potential interventions that could hep to reduce the numbers of HCAIs and with input from NHS Trusts where there are particular HCAI challenges or outbreaks.


Funding has also been awarded to other projects: £4.4m to Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust to test ‘individualised’ approached to antibiotic prescribing by bringing together patient care and clinical research; and £3.5m to the University of Liverpool to apply innovative genome sequencing to enable more personalised antibiotic prescribing. 


Antibiotic-resistant bloodstream infections rose by an estimated 35% between 2013 and 2017 and PHE is seeing an increasing number of infections that are not responding to antibiotics of last resort. Core infection control measures have driven down C. diff and MRSA infection rates, but interventions are not having a large enough impact on infections such as E. coli bloodstream infections.


Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England, says: “Innovation is critical to tackle the growing challenge of antibiotic resistance. With this investment we will be able to create the most sophisticated AMR data set globally, enhancing our ability to monitor AMR and design effective interventions to halt its rise. 


“By increasing our laboratory capacity to study novel agents and the healthcare environment, we’ll be able to take bold steps to preserve antibiotics for when we really need them and improve care and outcomes for patients.”