Superbugs will kill more people than cancer without swift action to stop GPs doling out needless antibiotics, Jeremy Hunt has warned. It came as new research found at least one in five prescriptions by family doctors should never have been issued, fuelling antibiotic resistance. Health officials urged GPs to rein in prescribing of the drugs, amid warnings that routine hospital operations could become too dangerous if common medications become ineffective.

Leading family doctors said the findings were “extremely disappointing,” but said GPs should not be blamed for handing out so many needless drugs. The study by Public Health England (PHE) and Imperial College London found British doctors were twice as likely as those in the Netherlands to prescribe the drugs. Overuse of antibiotics fuels the rise of drug-resistant superbugs, which kill 5,000 a year in the UK. The medication only works against bacterial infections, when the vast majority of coughs, colds and sore throats are caused by viruses. READ MORE