Kiwi nurse leader speaks out on international stage

9 March 2016

Nurses have a key role in reducing the threat of antibiotic resistance that could cause 10 million deaths annually by 2050, says the new Kiwi leader of the International Council of Nurses Dr Frances Hughes.

In a statement issued following a meeting on the issue at World Health Organisation headquarters in Geneva, the new ICN chief executive said if the spread of antimicrobrial resistance (AMR) continues as projected then it would be nurses and families who would be caring for affected individuals in a manner not seen today.

The former chief nurse of New Zealand and most recently Queensland, took up the Geneva-based post of ICN chief executive in February.

Hughes said she highlighted at the meeting that nurses can have the most impact on public and patient education, infection prevention and control, ensuring responsible use of antibiotics; and the monitoring and evaluating of AMR events.

Dr Caline Mattar of WHO indicated to the meeting that AMR is responsible for 25,000 deaths in Europe every year, 38,000 per year in Thailand; and over 23,000 in the USA.  The direct costs of AMR in the US are estimated to be up to US$20 billion per year and up to US$35 billion per year for indirect costs. A February 2015 review on AMR projected that by 2050 it would cause over 10 million deaths per year globally and result in a cumulative cost of US$100 trillion, roughly the same as removing the UK economy from global output each year.

Hughes said nurses could play a key role in lobbying governments to develop and strengthen national antimicrobial resistance surveillance systems to monitor the extent and cause of resistance in order to strengthen knowledge and evidence bases.

“In addition, we can lobby governments for regulation to ensure that only quality assured, safe, and efficacious antimicrobial agents are licensed, distributed, and sold.”

Further roles for nurses include supporting and strengthening infection prevention and control (IPC) policies and practices; supporting patients’ adherence to antimicrobial treatment and correct use of antibiotics; and promoting vaccination.

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