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How senior nurses can help fight antimicrobial resistance

Non-prescription advice pads rolled out to support Keep Antibiotics Working campaign

Non-prescription advice pads rolled out to support Keep Antibiotics Working campaign


Nurses are well placed to have difficult conversations with people about
antibiotic prescriptions. Picture: iStock

Public Health England has re-launched the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign to alert the public to the risks of antibiotic resistance and to urge them to take their healthcare professional’s advice on antibiotics.

Antimicrobial resistance is still a real threat and, despite the heightened public awareness we have seen on this topic, research shows that for our citizens a prescription often validates their symptoms so that expectations for antibiotics continue to present issues for all nurses, including those who prescribe.

Nurses are frequently on the front line and there’s a real need to support them in their conversations with individuals about antibiotics.

Challenging conversations

As a registered nurse and health visitor, I know all too well how challenging conversations about antibiotics can be. When individuals are in pain or, worse yet, when their children are in pain, it can be difficult to help them understand that antibiotics will not help treat a viral illness. Patients want fast relief and there is a common misbelief that antibiotics are a ‘magic’ pill that will cure all infections.

'We need to work with our communities to support and provide evidence-based advice about the risks of taking antibiotics when they are not needed'

We need to work with our communities to support and provide evidence-based advice about the risks of taking antibiotics when they are not needed and about the impact antibiotic resistance can have on them as individuals, as well as their loved ones.

Nurses are well placed to listen to people’s fears and needs, and are in a privileged position to be able to suggest alternative methods of symptom relief, preventive measures such as vaccinations and care. Individually and collectively, it is our responsibility as registered nurses to explain this to individuals and ensure they still feel that their symptoms are taken seriously when they are advised they don’t need an antibiotic.

Non-prescription pads

This year, the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign is releasing a Treat Your Infection non-prescription pad for urinary tract infections (UTIs). The digital pads can be personalised by the prescriber and provide individuals with advice on how infections can be managed at home if antibiotics are not required.

A survey of 70 people who last year received a similar non-prescription pad about respiratory tract infections, revealed that 97% found it helpful.

The Treat Your Infection non-prescription pads have proven successful and provide individuals with a tangible alternative to antibiotics and help healthcare professionals build a dialogue so that inappropriate prescribing is less likely.

I would urge all registered nurses to download the Treat Your Infection non-prescription pads to help maintain the long-term health of the population.

The UTI Treat Your Infection non-prescription pad is available for nurses to download from the PHE campaign resource centre.

Find out more about the campaign here


About the author

Viv Bennett is chief nurse at Public Health England  

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