Antimicrobial stewardship

Antimicrobial stewardship in hospitals reduces the unnecessary and inappropriate use of antibiotics. Antibiotic prescribing guidelines should be standard practice in all health care settings where antibiotics are prescribed.

Antibiotic prescribing guidelines

Access to, and use of, antibiotic prescribing guidelines should be standard practice in all health care settings where antibiotics are prescribed. 

The Therapeutic Guidelines: Antibiotic was produced by the Antibiotic Expert Group of Therapeutic Guidelines Limited. It represents the best available evidence and opinion regarding antibiotic treatment in Australia. It guides prescribers on antibiotic treatment, including: choosing the best antibiotic, the correct dose, how it should be taken, duration and when to commence the treatment.  

The Australian Medicines Handbook is another important clinical resource for health professionals about the quality use of medicines. It provides guidance on practical prescribing matters including contraindications, precautions, side effects and dose adjustments for specific populations. 

Resources to support antimicrobial stewardship

There are a number of resources available to help hospitals and day procedure services implement an antimicrobial stewardship program.

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission)

The Commission manages the Antimicrobial Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has resources and education modules to help healthcare services put effective stewardship programs in place. Further details are at Antimicrobial Stewardship Initiative.

National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards

Since January 2013, Australian hospitals and day procedure services have to show that they meet the requirements of the NSQHS Standards to achieve accreditation. 

Standard 3 of NSQHS Standards includes a criterion for antimicrobial stewardship, which requires all healthcare services to:

  • have an antimicrobial stewardship program in place 
  • give clinicians prescribing antimicrobials access to the current Therapeutic Guidelines on using antimicrobials 
  • monitor antimicrobial use and resistance 
  • act to improve the effectiveness of antimicrobial stewardship.

Antimicrobial Stewardship in Australian Health Care 2018

Antimicrobial Stewardship in Australian Health Care 2018 summarises current evidence about antimicrobial stewardship strategies and interventions and how to implement them.

Clinical Care Standards

The Antimicrobial Stewardship Clinical Care Standard and supporting resources aim to ensure a consistent approach to optimal treatment of patients with a bacterial infection. 

National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey (NAPS)

The National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey is a web-based auditing tool and antimicrobial survey program that is conducted annually. The tool is designed to help healthcare facilities assess the quantity and quality of antimicrobial prescribing and monitor the effectiveness of interventions. 

Hospitals participate in NAPS voluntarily. A clinician at each site (such as a pharmacist, nurse, infection control practitioner or doctor) completes the audit following a standardised methodology. More information about participating in NAPS is available from the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship.

Patient resources

The following resources may help you to talk to patients about antibiotic resistance and when antibiotics are needed: 

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