Patients in the Stafford area are being urged to use antibiotics responsibly to keep them in good health and prevent disease-resistant infection from spreading.
Antibiotics are a vital tool for treating infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and tuberculosis and for preventing infections during surgical procedures and cancer treatment. However, the more antibiotics are used the less effective they become because overuse gives resistant bacteria a greater chance to survive and spread.
Dr Paddy Hannigan, Chair of Stafford and Surrounds CCG, said: “It is a common misconception that antibiotics are a cure-all - but the reality is they just won’t work in the case of a cold or the flu.
“Patients should be assured that when antibiotics are necessary they will be prescribed - but for other conditions alternative advice on symptom management will be provided rather than prescribing an antibiotic if it will not be effective.”
“There are many different types of antibiotics but they only work against bacterial infections, not viral infections such as colds, coughs and flu. Doctors and patients should also consider that antibiotics can have side effects.”
Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant threats to patients’ safety worldwide. Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria increase levels of disease and death, as well as the length of time people stay in hospitals. Doctors warn that as bacterial resistance grows it will become more difficult to treat infection.
The antibiotic resistance problem has become more serious because the discovery of new antibiotics is at an all-time low, even though there has always been an understanding of the problems we could face if we run out of effective antibiotics. It has now been over 30 years since a new class of antibiotics was discovered and health bosses need to protect the treatments currently available.
Dr Hannigan said that health services locally were working hard to reduce unnecessary prescribing. He added: “The reduction in antibiotic prescribing in Stafford and Surrounds is evidence that prescribers are following national guidance to ensure that antibiotics prescribed are clinically appropriate.”
From April 2016, a new NHS programme has been supporting hospitals and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to address issues in current antibiotic prescribing.
CCGs are being supported to reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed in primary care by four per cent or to the average performance levels of 2013/14. They will also need to reduce the prescribing of so-called ‘broad spectrum’ antibiotics. These drugs treat a wide-range of bacteria but due to their side-effects and the risk of resistance developing they need to be reserved to treat resistant disease and should only be used only when standard antibiotics are ineffective.
During 2015/16 Stafford and Surrounds CCG reviewed antibiotics prescribing. Historically, local prescribing levels were considerably above the national average – particularly in the prescribing of broad spectrum antibiotics. In 2015/16 the overall prescribing of antibiotics in Stafford and Surrounds reduced by 8.3 per cent and broad spectrum antibiotic prescribing reduced by 12.6 per cent compared to the previous year. Significant reductions were made in the second half of the year with over 20 per cent reduction in broad spectrum antibiotic prescribing from October 2015 to March 2016.
But despite the reductions in 2015/16, local prescribing still remains above the national average. Nine out of 10 GPs say that they can feel pressured by patients to prescribe antibiotics, and 97 per cent of patients who ask for antibiotics are prescribed them. The CCG is therefore urging everyone to play their part in reducing inappropriate requests for antibiotics.
For many conditions, including coughs, colds and sore throats, antibiotics will make little difference to symptoms and may have side effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting and rash. Patients should self-manage these conditions and seek advice from community pharmacists when appropriate.
Patients who do require antibiotics are being advised to follow the doctor’s instructions carefully, to not share antibiotics with other people and to complete the full course of treatment as prescribed in a bid to reduce the risk of increasing resistance.
Public Health England has developed the Antibiotic Guardian resource for both healthcare professionals and members of the public. Further information on antibiotics is available at http://antibioticguardian.com/