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Primary care nurses in 'privileged position' to tackle antibiotic 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


Picture: iStock

Public Health England (PHE) has re-launched its ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign to alert the public to the personal risks of antibiotic resistance, and to urge people to take their healthcare professional’s advice on antibiotics.

A new report shows that more than three million common surgeries, such as caesarean sections, hip and knee replacements, and cancer treatments could become life-threatening if antibiotic resistance continues to worsen (PHE 2018).

Despite the heightened public awareness, a prescription often validates symptoms, and expectations for antibiotics continue to present issues for all nurses, including those who prescribe. Changing this behaviour is challenging; an unpublished PHE survey indicates that 38% of people still expect an antibiotic from a GP surgery, out of hours service or NHS walk-in centre for a cough, flu or a throat, ear, sinus or chest infection.

Common misconceptions

When individuals – or their children – are in pain, it can be difficult to help them understand that antibiotics will not treat a viral illness. Everyone wants fast relief and there is a common misconception that antibiotics are a ‘magic’ pill that will cure all infections. Nurses on the front line need more support to help them have conversations with individuals about antibiotics and to help them say ‘no’ when antibiotics are not needed.

We need to work with 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 could have on them.

Non-prescription pad tool 

This year, as part of the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign, Public Health England has released a ‘Treat Your Infection’ non-prescription pad for urinary tract infections (UTI); it follows the success of a similar tool for respiratory tract infections (RTI). The pads are designed to help healthcare professionals help people to understand how to self-care when antibiotics are not needed.

The digital pads can be personalised by the prescriber and provide individuals with advice on how RTIs and UTIs can be managed at home if antibiotics are not required. In a survey of 70 individuals who had received the RTI non-prescription pad last year, 97% said they found it helpful (Kantar Public UK 2018).

The ‘Treat Your Infection’ non-prescription pads provide individuals with a tangible alternative to antibiotics and help us healthcare professionals build a dialogue so that inappropriate prescribing is less likely. I would urge all nurses to download these pads to help maintain the long-term health of the population.

'Community and primary care 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'

Community and primary care 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, preventative measures like vaccinations and care. Individually and collectively, it is our responsibility as registered nurses to explain this to individuals and to ensure they still feel their symptoms are being taken seriously when they are advised they don’t need an antibiotic.

Public Health England provides a wide range of guidance to help professionals tackle antimicrobial resistance including All Our Health, a resource which helps health and care professionals maximise their impact on preventing illness, protecting health and promoting wellbeing.

The UTI Treat Your Infection non-prescription pad is available for nurses to download from the Public Health England Campaign Resource Centre.

References

Kantar Public UK (2018) AMR Campaign National Rollout – Evaluation Debrief. Kantar Public UK, London.  

Public Health England (2018) English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance Report (ESPAUR). PHE, London.


About the author

Joanne Bosanquet is deputy chief nurse at Public Health England

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