Health leaders from NHS Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are warning patients of the dangers of antibiotics resistance and the need for patients to use antibiotics wisely. The advice comes ahead of European Antibiotics Awareness Day on 18 November.
Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate. Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant threats to patients' safety and an everyday problem in all hospitals across England and Europe. Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria increase levels of disease and death, as well as the length of time people stay in hospitals. Few new antibiotics are being developed. As resistance in bacteria grows, it will become more difficult to treat infection, and this affects patient care.
Resistance to antibiotics is rapidly increasing, with some countries seeing drug resistance rates more than double in the past five years. Research has shown that over use of antibiotics can leave people susceptible to other infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile that are harder to treat.
Resistance is also caused when antibiotics are not taken for the fully prescribed course. Taking only a partial course of antibiotics means that bacteria will be exposed to the antibiotic but are not given a strong enough course to kill them, resulting in the bacteria surviving and replicating. Consequently, future strains may be more likely to mutate and develop resistance. A survey found that a quarter of people who are prescribed antibiotics don’t finish the prescribed course.
Dr Sheila Newport, Chair of NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG, said:
“Antibiotics are important medicines for treating infections caused by bacteria. All colds and most other common illnesses, such as coughs, sinusitis, otitis media (earache) and sore throats often get better without the need for antibiotics
“To slow down the development of antibiotic resistance it is important to use antibiotics in the right way, to use the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time for the right duration. Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed, never saved for later or shared with others.
“Using antibiotics to treat common, mild illnesses unnecessarily speeds up the problem of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics certainly have an important and often lifesaving role in healthcare, but prescribing them unnecessarily contributes to the problem of bacteria developing resistance to the antibiotics that they would have once been susceptible to.
“Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when you need them, for example for a kidney infection or pneumonia. When antibiotics are prescribed, it is important that patients always take them as directed and complete the course to get rid of the bacteria completely and so they can stay effective in the future.
“People need to be aware that antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and they do not work against virus infections such as those causing colds or most coughs. If you are suffering with cold symptoms or a sore throat you should rest, take enough fluids (to avoid feeling thirsty) and speak to your pharmacist who will advise you on over-the-counter remedies, such as paracetamol, that are available.”
European Antibiotics Awareness Day is a European-wide event encouraging the responsible use of antibiotics, to slow down the development of antibiotic resistance and to help keep antibiotics effective for the future.