Nurses across England are being urged to get actively involved in the latest phase of a nationwide campaign to tackle antibiotic resistance, including handing out “non-prescriptions” to patients.
Public Health England’s Keep Antibiotics Working campaign, launched last year, is making a comeback this autumn with nurses set to play a pivotal role, according to nursing leaders.
“Nurses play an integral part in the efforts made to tackle antimicrobial resistance”
This includes using “non-prescription pads” to help explain to patients why they are not being prescribed antibiotics.
Designed to be a tangible alternative to an actual prescription, the resource sets out basic steps people can take to alleviate symptoms such as coughs, sore throats and earache like getting some rest, drinking plenty of fluids and seeking over-the-counter remedies.
Last year, clinicians were able to download the Treat Your Infection documents to present to people with respiratory tract infections, with the vast majority of patients who took part in a snapshot survey reporting these were useful.
This year, the resource has also been tailored for urinary tract infections with nurses and other prescribers urged to make good use of them.
“The Treat Your Infection non-prescription pads are incredibly helpful tools which provide advice for patients about how to manage their illness when antibiotics are not needed,” said Viv Bennett, chief nurse at Public Health England.
“I would encourage all nurses to continue to use these pads in conversations with patients and to support the campaign,” she said.
“Nursing professionals can and do have a real, positive impact on this globally important issue”
Overall, she said nurses had a vital role in raising awareness of the dangers of antimicrobial resistance and preventing inappropriate prescribing.
“Antimicrobial resistance is a very real threat and nurses play an integral part in the efforts made to tackle this issue,” she said, speaking head of the official start of this year’s campaign on 23 October.
She added: “PHE’s Keep Antibiotics Working campaign supports the positive work of nurses by reducing patients’ expectations for antibiotics, highlighting the risks of antibiotic resistance.”
While England has seen a decline in antibiotic prescribing in recent years, research shows about 20% of antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately.
Meanwhile, 38% of patients who seek medical help still expect to be prescribed antibiotics for a cough, flu or a throat, ear, sinus or chest infection.
The Keep Antibiotics Working campaign, which will run for eight weeks, will include TV and radio ads, social media activity and work with GP surgeries and pharmacies.
Non-prescription pads will be available to download from the PHE Campaign Resource Centre alongside other materials such as posters and leaflets.
According to PHE, there are signs the campaign, which is targeted at the general public, is having an impact and that key messages are getting through.
Research following the first national campaign last autumn found 81% of 1,200 adults surveyed acknowledged that taking antibiotics unnecessarily put them and their families at risk.
More than three quarters – 78% – said they would be unlikely to ask for antibiotics.
Meanwhile, a survey of 70 people who were given non-prescriptions revealed 97% said they found this useful.
The Royal College of Nursing is among organisations to throw their weight behind the Keep Antibiotics Working drive and is encouraging its members to take part.
“We know that whilst antibiotic prescribing rates have declined in the last year, more still needs to be done and nurses can play a key role in this, said Rose Gallagher, RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control.
Rose gallagher6th june 2016 hsj roundtable reducing variation053
She said: “As the largest part of the healthcare workforce, nurses are invaluable in supporting the public and patients with advice on health, self-care and when antibiotics are needed and when they are not.”
The campaign is aligned with the Antibiotic Guardian scheme which encourages professionals and members of the public to sign up to various pledges designed to preserve antibiotics.
Ms Gallagher said she hoped nurses would embrace the cause.
“This campaign is so important and the RCN is encouraging all members of the nursing and midwifery profession to share the resources and messages to help encourage people to heed the health advice they are given when it comes to taking antibiotics,” she said.
She added: “Nursing professionals can and do have a real, positive impact on this globally important issue.”