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'Keep Antibiotics Working' campaign resurfaces

Campaign relaunch coincides with two reports highlighting AMR threat to modern medicine

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Public Health England (PHE) has relaunched its ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign to alert the public to the risks of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), urging them to always take their doctor, nurse or healthcare professional’s advice on antibiotics.

The relaunch comes a day after a report from the Health and Social Care Committee called on the government to make tackling AMR a top five priority.

This was followed today by PHE’s English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance (ESPAUR) report* which highlights how infections related to common surgical procedures could double and cancer patients could become vulnerable if AMR is not tackled. The report says that antibiotic-resistant bloodstream infections rose by an estimated 35% between 2013 and 2017.

Research shows that, despite the AMR threat, 38% of patients still expected an antibiotic for a cough, flu or a throat, ear, sinus or chest infection in 2017.

The ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign educates the public about the risks of antibiotic resistance, urging people to always take healthcare professionals’ advice as to when they need antibiotics. The campaign also provides effective self-care advice to help individuals and their families feel better if they are not prescribed antibiotics.

Professor Paul Cosford, medical director, PHE, said: “In the not too distant future, we may see more cancer patients, mothers who’ve had caesareans and patients who’ve had other surgery facing life-threatening situations if antibiotics fail to ward off infections.

“We need to preserve antibiotics for when we really need them and we are calling on the public to join us in tackling antibiotic resistance by listening to your GP, pharmacist or nurse’s advice and only taking antibiotics when necessary. Taking antibiotics just in case may seem like a harmless act, but it can have grave consequences for you and your family’s health in future.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England said: “The UK has made great efforts in recent years to reduce prescribing rates of antibiotics, however, there continues to be a real need to preserve the drugs we have so that they remain effective for those who really need them and prevent infections emerging in the first place. This is not just an issue for doctors and nurses, the public have a huge role to play – today’s data and the launch of the national ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign must be a further wake-up call to us all.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said GPs often come under considerable pressure from patients to prescribe antibiotics. “We need to get to a stage where antibiotics are not seen as a ‘catch all’ for every illness or a ‘just in case’ backup option – and patients need to understand that if their doctor doesn’t prescribe antibiotics it’s because they genuinely believe they are not the most appropriate course of treatment.”


*English surveillance programme for antimicrobial utilisation and resistance (ESPAUR) report. prepared by Public Health England, 23 October 2018.

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