NPC Archive Item: Let’s focus on responsible antibiotic use

NOTE – This is an archive post from the NPC and has not been updated since first publication. Therefore, some hyperlinks may no longer be working.
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15 November 2010

The Department of Health (DH) has published information to support the European Antibiotics Awareness Day (EAAD), which is due to be held on the 18th of November 2010. The aim of this annual event is to raise awareness on how we can use antibiotics responsibly, so as to safeguard their effectiveness for the future. This year’s awareness day focusses on the promotion of prudent antibiotic use in hospitals. Primary care and hospital support materials are available to download from the DH website; these include fact sheets for prescribers, non-prescription pads, posters and adverts.

Prescribers and prescribing managers should consider using the support materials from the DH website. Health professionals should ensure they prescribe antibiotics appropriately and in line with NICE or local guidance based on HPA advice. Generally, prescribing for viral or mild, self-limiting infections such as coughs and colds is unlikely to improve the course of the illness, puts patients at risk of unnecessary adverse reactions (e.g. vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, fungal infection) and encourages further consultations. Clinicians should prescribe antibiotics immediately only for those patients who are at higher risk of complications and those who are more likely to have a bacterial cause for their symptoms. In certain scenarios providing reassurance that the symptoms will resolve without antibiotic treatment and the use of watchful waiting or a delayed prescription may be preferable. The NPC Patient decision aid relating to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) may be helpful in some consultations.

Why is the responsible use of antibiotics important?
The inappropriate use of antibiotics is considered to be the main driver of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance if not just a problem at population-level; antibiotics prescribed for individual patients in primary care has been shown to be associated with resistance of urinary and respiratory bacteria to those antibiotics in that individual. Responsible use of antibiotics can help reverse the growing trend of antimicrobial resistance and keep antibiotics effective for the use of future generations. Keeping antibiotics effective is therefore everyone’s responsibility. On this basis, it is appropriate to inform the public, health professionals and carers of the sick, elderly and children about when and how to take antibiotics responsibly.

More information on antibiotics can be found on the common infections section of NPC

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