Patients are being urged not to ask their GP to prescribe antibiotics in a bid to fight against growing resistance to the drugs.
Public Health England (PHE) estimate 5,000 people die every year in England because of antibiotic resistance and warn of a post-antibiotic era but say that reduced use of antibiotics could improve the situation.
The Keep Antibiotics Working campaign will also see patients educated on the appropriate use of antibiotics and the signs of symptoms of severe infections when antibiotics are necessary.
Experts at PHE say that patients have a “part to play” and should not pressure healthcare professionals into prescribing antibiotics, claiming up to a fifth of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary, and insist that doctors will only prescribe when necessary.
Antibiotics are vital in cases of sepsis and other severe infections but PHE say they are not essential for every illness.
Prof Cosford, Medical Director at PHE, said:
“A doctor will be able to tell you when an antibiotic is really necessary.
“The fact is if you take an antibiotic when you don’t need it then you’re more likely to have an infection that the antibiotics don’t work for over the coming months.”
He clarified that patients should not go to their GP “expecting an antibiotic”.
Rose Gallagher, Professional Lead for Infection Prevention and Control at the Royal College of Nursing, said:
“Antimicrobial resistance is a global, long-term threat and this campaign is an important step in the battle to protect our nation’s health. We risk simple illnesses being prolonged and even turning fatal if the issue isn’t addressed.
“The nursing profession can make a significant contribution to limiting the threat of antimicrobial resistance and improving the long-term outlook of the NHS. Nursing staff must be given the resources and support to put this campaign into action.
“Lives are being lost prematurely – it is vital that the public are aware of the dangers of taking antibiotics when they don’t need to. We urge patients to listen to the advice from nurses and other health professionals on their use.”
PHE warns, that if things continue, by 2050 drug-resistant infections could kill more people than cancer.