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Consequences of antibiotic overuse stressed in draft NICE guideline

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Healthcare professionals should explain the consequences of overusing antibiotics to patients and highlight how to manage their condition without them if they are not required, according to a new draft guideline.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence draft guideline – called Antimicrobial stewardship: changing risk-related behaviours in the general population - is aimed at reducing antimicrobial resistance and the spread of resistant microbes and covers interventions to change people’s behaviour

People often wrongly think self-limiting conditions - such as colds, flu and earache -require antibiotics and healthcare professionals should explain this misunderstanding, said NICE.

When people seek health advice for self-limiting conditions, they should be advised how they can self-care for each of the symptoms.

“[The guideline]aims to increase awareness, to both the public and healthcare professionals, of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics”

Professor Gillian Leng

In addition, it said healthcare professionals should explain to people who are prescribed antimicrobials that they should only take the dose for the time specified and should not share them with others or keep them at home for use another time.

The guideline also said information should be given to the general public through local and national campaigns about washing hands and food hygiene.

It said advice on washing hands should explain why it is important to do so, when it should happen – such as after using the toilet and before eating – and the method required, including the need for soap and water or sanitisers.

Education in schools was vital according to NICE,  which said in its guidelines that schools should provide lessons on hand washing.

Meanwhile, food hygiene advice should include the importance of washing hands a with soap and water before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet or touching the bin, and before and after handling raw food.

“With so few new antibiotics being developed, this could result in once-treatable infections becoming fatal in years to come”

Professor Gillian Leng

Those behind the draft guideline noted groups that use the most antibiotics are those aged 16 to 24 and adults aged over 65.

Misuse is most prevalent in the younger group and resistance occurs most in the older.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and health and social care director at NICE, said: “The over-use of antibiotics in the last 30 years has led to microbial resistance, and with so few new antibiotics being developed, this could result in once-treatable infections becoming fatal in years to come.

“This new draft guideline focuses on interventions to help change people’s behaviour, and reduce antimicrobial resistance. It also aims to increase awareness, to both the public and healthcare professionals, of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, and the risks this could involve. ”

The final version of the guideline is expected in March 2016.

Earlier this month NICE released guidance  for clinicians to “promote and monitor the sensible use of antimicrobials” which said nurses should be able to question the antimicrobial prescribing practices of colleagues when these are not in line with guidelines.

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