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GPs need support to convince public to stop expecting antibiotics

Guidance says public must be better educated on antimicrobial resistance

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The public should be better educated about the over-reliance on antibiotics in the UK and the threat of growing antimicrobial resistance, according to new guidance published today.

GPs should also be given resources to help them educate patients about the dangers of becoming too dependent on antibiotics, says the joint NICE and Public Health England (PHE) guidance.

The guidance suggests increasing the public's awareness and understanding of appropriate antibiotic use, prescribing and antibiotic resistance in the UK.

It recommends all children and young people, from pre-school to university age, be taught the importance of hand washing and managing some common infections themselves.

These recommendations are designed to educate the general public in how they can contribute in the battle against antimicrobial resistance, and one way is to encourage good hygiene as a way of reducing the spread of disease and the reliance on medicines.

Paul Cosford, medical director for Public Health England, said: “We all have a part to play in this battle against antimicrobial resistance to ensure that antimicrobial treatments do not become obsolete in the future. To stop the spread of infections and reduce resistance, good hand, respiratory and food hygiene and appropriate antimicrobial use are vital.”

The guidance aims to support NHS organisations, local authorities, and health and social care professionals to provide accurate information to people in their care.

Its recommendations include telling patients that they should not buy prescription-only antimicrobials online, share them with others or use them as preventive measure against becoming ill on holiday.

NICE and PHE’s guidance proposes:

  • encouraging the general public to not request antibiotics at a GP appointment
  • to try to self-care more or get advice from a community pharmacist for colds, runny nose or flu and other self-limiting infections
  • act on advice given by their GP or other prescriber if antibiotics are not prescribed immediately.

The guidance recommends that CCGs ensure resources are available for healthcare professionals to use with the public to provide information about self-limiting infections.

These resources should be used to encourage people to manage their infection themselves at home, if safe to do so.

Such resources should include:

  • information on how someone can recognise whether they, or someone they are caring for, have a self-limiting infection
  • how to seek further advice if they not sure whether their infection is self-limiting
  • where to seek advice on managing self-limiting infections, the natural course of self-limiting infections, including the length of time symptoms are likely to last
  • how people can self-care, and explicit advice on when to seek medical help

NICE and PHE highlighted the benefits in using evidence-based teaching tools to help children and young people understand how infections spread, and how antimicrobial resistance developed.

One of the teaching tools endorsed by NICE is e-Bug, produced by PHE, as an educational software package developed with students, teachers and public health professionals.

Professor Gillian Leng, NICE deputy chief executive, said: “There are already common infections that are resistant to antimicrobials. Without sustained changes to the way we manage infections and protect these medicines, some routine medical procedures will become fatal.

“Education is key to this issue, and that’s why we’ve made recommendations for a whole range of ages.”

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