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Health leaders in Staffordshire urge people to help ensure antibiotics remain effective

Patients in Staffordshire are being urged to help in the fight to ensure antibiotics remain effective ways to treat bacterial infections.

Antibiotics are a vital tool for modern medicine, and the effective treatment of infections like pneumonia, meningitis and tuberculosis. They also prevent infections from occurring during surgical procedures and cancer treatment.

But the more antibiotics are used the less effective they become as bacteria become resistant to them. And as no new antibiotics have been developed for 30 years, it’s important the ones we have remain effective or and there could be an increased risk of death from bacterial infection.

For many conditions, including coughs, colds and sore throats, antibiotics make little difference to symptoms and may have side effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting and rash. It is more effective for patients to seek advice from community pharmacists and manage the symptoms at home until they pass.

Dr Paddy Hannigan, a Stafford GP and Chair of Stafford and Surrounds CCG said: “It’s a common misconception that antibiotics are a cure-all, but the reality is they just won’t work for viral infections like cold or flu.”

“ In Stafford & Surrounds we are successfully reducing antibiotic inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in line with national and local guidance. When antibiotics are necessary they will be prescribed but for other conditions alternative advice on symptom management will be provided.”

Despite still being above national average, all three CCG’s have seen a reduction in the prescribing of broad spectrum antibiotics which are associated with the most potential side-effects and long-term antibiotic resistance:

  • Stafford & Surrounds CCG - 18% reduction 
  • Cannock Chase CCG - 13% reduction 
  • South East Staffordshire & Seisdon Peninsula CCG - 9% reduction

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 get them. It is therefore important that everyone plays their part in reducing inappropriate requests for antibiotics.

One of the most dramatic ways of showing how reducing antibiotic prescribing is having a positive impact is looking at the reduction in patients becoming ill from a condition associated with recent treatment with antibiotics. Clostridium difficile, also known as “C. diff”, is an unpleasant bowel infection that can cause long-term problems and can spread easily to others.

Since 2014/15 C. diff cases have reduced by 53% in the Stafford and Stone area. There has also been a 14.5% reduction in Cannock Chase and 7% reduction in South East Staffordshire and South Staffs District.

Dr Hannigan said: “The reduction is particularly encouraging, and reflects the work we are doing with our local NHS hospitals to fight antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics bring immense benefits but that could be thrown into reverse if we don’t become cleverer in the way we use them. We need patients to understand there is often a very good reason why their GP may not be prescribing them.”

When antibiotics are prescribed it is important patients follow the doctor’s instructions carefully, do not share antibiotics and complete the full course of treatment as prescribed.

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/

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