New guidance on antibiotics for pneumonia
19th June 2014 – GPs are being given new guidance on when to prescribe antibiotics for mild pneumonia.
Draft guidance from the health advisory body NICE for doctors in England and Wales suggests doing a special blood test in some cases.
Pneumonia is a lung infection which can prevent the lungs from working properly.
Pneumonia is suspected in anyone who has a persistent cough and at least one other unexplained lower respiratory tract symptom such as fever, breathlessness, pain or excess phlegm.
Pneumonia affects up to 630,000 adults a year in the UK, but it is not always clear whether antibiotics are needed or not.
Some cases left untreated can get worse quickly, with 42% of patients diagnosed with pneumonia by their GP ending up in hospital.
Around 1 in 10 people admitted to hospital with pneumonia will need intensive care treatment, where their risk of dying is around 30%.
New pneumonia guidance
Some people with pneumonia will need to be sent to hospital straight away. If it is not clear from a GP's general assessment whether antibiotics for home care are needed, NICE says a C-reactive protein (CRP) blood test should be carried out in the surgery.
In a statement, Professor Mark Baker NICE director of clinical practice says: "Pneumonia is very common and can be fatal if it is not treated properly. Those who get pneumonia whilst in hospital not only have their stay prolonged, their risk of dying could increase by up to 70%. We need to make sure that physicians are absolutely clear on the best way to treat people with pneumonia, whether that’s in hospital or in the community."
The new guidelines say hospitals need clear plans on dealing with pneumonia with treatment to be assessed within four hours of arrival.
"Pneumonia can be difficult to treat," Professor Baker adds. "It requires careful assessment and thoughtful treatment. These new draft recommendations make it very clear how to best test for pneumonia and when to consider treating with antibiotics."
GPs will be advised to prescribe a five-day course of a single antibiotic for low-severity pneumonia, with patients advised to seek further medical advice if their symptoms don't improve within three days.