Cumbrian clinicians appeal for support to help preserve our antibiotics

As part of World Antibiotic Awareness Week, Cumbrian clinicians are appealing for patients to understand that antibiotics will not cure everything, and there is a very big risk if they are used incorrectly. 

Medical professionals are stressing that illnesses including viral infections, most coughs and colds, sinusitis, ear infections and sore throats, all get better without antibiotics, as your body can usually fight them on its own. 

Antibiotics are essential medicines used in both humans and animals to treat bacterial infections. 

There are now very real concerns that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate, as bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic, becoming ‘antibiotic resistant’. 

Clinicians are advising that if we were to lose effective antibiotics, it would cause many routine treatments to become increasingly dangerous. Procedures from setting broken bones to basic operations, and even chemotherapy rely on the use of antibiotics that work. 

Clive Graham, Consultant Medical Microbiologist at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have seen a reduction in antimicrobial prescribing by General Practitioners this year, but the total use remains significantly above national average (1.174 v 1.034).   

“Antimicrobial resistance is an ever present threat, and prudent use of these drugs is the best way of preserving them for future use.” 

Colin Cox, Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Antibiotic resistance is not a distant threat, but is in fact one of the most dangerous public health crises facing us today. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk of developing infections which in turn cannot be easily treated with antibiotics.  

“Without urgent action from all of us, common infections, minor injuries and routine operations will become much riskier. The ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign helps to explain the risks of antibiotic resistance to the public.  

“It is important for people to understand that if they are feeling under the weather and see their GP or a nurse, antibiotics may not be prescribed if they are not effective for their condition, but they should expect to have a full discussion about how to manage their symptoms.” 

Community pharmacists are well placed to help provide advice on over the counter medicines to treat symptoms and help with self-care. 

This week (from 12 – 18 November) is World Antibiotic Awareness Week, and European Antibiotic Awareness Day is on 18 November. 

To help slow antibiotic resistance, everyone, from members of the public to the veterinary and medical communities and professional organisations, are invited to become Antibiotic Guardians. 

You can find out more about becoming an Antibiotic Guardian, and choose a simple pledge to help tackle antibiotic resistance at www.antibioticguardian.com (it takes less than 3 minutes and it is free!). The campaign asks you to choose one simple pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics and help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete.