News

Significant rise in cases of drug-resistant disease in NHS area covering Barnet

364 cases were recorded in the former NHS North Central London CCG area in the year to March reports Andrew Dowdeswell, Data Reporter

A woman looking at test results through a microscope
The rate of cases has risen steadily across England, from 17.6 cases per 100,000 people in 2017-18 to 20.9 in 2022-23 – (Credit – Radar)

The government has vowed to tackle the spread of a drug-resistant disease branded a “significant threat” to public health.

Klebsiella pneumoniae can cause infections in the lungs, blood and wounds of those already injured, and can prove especially dangerous to patients with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable.

It comes as the number of cases of Klebsiella in north central London has risen significantly over the last six years, new figures show.

UK Health Security Agency figures show 364 cases were recorded in the former NHS North Central London CCG area in the year to March – up from 229 in 2017-18.

It represents a rise of 59% over the last six years.

Meanwhile, the rate of cases has risen steadily across England, from 17.6 cases per 100,000 people in 2017-18 to 20.9 in 2022-23.

In north central London, the rate has risen from 15.4 to 22.6.

Rates are only available until 2022-23.

Scientists say Klebsiella is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, and it is part of a group of diseases which possess antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden has described them as an “invisible threat” which must be tackled to “protect the welfare of our society and safeguard the NHS”.


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The UKHSA said it is investigating why Klebsiella rates have risen, but suggested an ageing population, improved surveillance, and increases in respiratory infections which can lead to bacterial infections are likely factors.

The government’s five-year plan to combat AMR will see the UK reduce its use of antimicrobials – such as antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals, strengthen the surveillance of drug-resistant infections before they emerge, and incentivise the development of new treatments.

The government said it aims to contain and control AMR by 2040.

The World Health Organisation has described AMR as “one of the top global public health and development threats”, saying bacterial AMR was directly responsible for 1.3 million global deaths in 2019 and contributed to almost 5 million deaths.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “Antibiotics are one of the most powerful tools we have against infection. Resistance to these drugs therefore poses a significant threat to the lives of many people in the UK and around the world.”

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Effective antibiotics are fundamental to providing the best care and treatment for patients both in the NHS and globally, so it is only right that we move to tackle the major issue of antibiotic resistance.

“We welcome this new strategy by the Department of Health and Social Care, as the NHS continues to lead the world by developing a new subscription-style payment model to create greater incentives for new antibiotics to help tackle this issue, with both national and global partners.”


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