More than 3 million operations and cancer treatments a year in England may become life-threatening without antibiotics.
Public Health England warned that cases of antibiotic-resistant blood infections have risen by more than a third in just four years.
Experts say the crisis is getting worse amid growing concerns that the drugs are losing their power and can no longer treat many infections. Without antibiotics, infections related to surgery could double, putting people at risk of dangerous complications, health officials say.
Public Health England warned that cases of antibiotic-resistant blood infections have risen by more than a third in just four years (file photo)
It could mean common procedures such as caesarean sections and hip replacements could become life-threatening.
New figures revealed there were 16,504 cases where antibiotics did not work last year. This is up from 12,250 in 2013.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, warned that without swift action to reduce infections, Britain is at risk of ‘putting medicine back in the Dark Ages’.
Health officials said antibiotics were essential for treating serious bacterial infections but the drugs were frequently used to treat coughs and sore throats – which usually get better without the medication.
New figures revealed there were 16,504 cases where antibiotics did not work last year alone (file photo)
Research suggests that 38 per cent of people who seek medical care for a cough, flu or a throat, ear, sinus or chest infection expect to receive an antibiotic.
Public Health England’s latest campaign reminds people that if they are feeling unwell, antibiotics are not always needed. It urges the public not to pressure GPs into prescribing them.
Professor Paul Cosford, medical director at PHE, said: ‘It’s concerning that, in the not-too-distant future, we may see more cancer patients, mothers who’ve had caesareans and patients who’ve had other surgery facing life-threatening situations if antibiotics fail to ward off infections.’
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We need to get to a stage where antibiotics are not seen as a “catch all” for every illness or a “just in case” back-up option – and patients need to understand that if their doctor doesn’t prescribe antibiotics it’s because they genuinely believe they are not the most appropriate course of treatment.’