Public Health England has said nurses have a “key role” to play in a new public awareness campaign being launched today to help tackle the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
The government arm’s-length body highlighted the importance of nurses and midwives in fighting antimicrobial resistance because of their role in helping prevent infections.
“All nurses and midwives are on the frontline in the fight against antimicrobial resistance”
The campaign begins on 23 October with a major national print and broadcast advertising campaign to encourage members of the public to take their health professional’s advice on antibiotics by only taking them when absolutely necessary.
As well as television adverts and social media campaign, PHE is producing posters, leaflets and video presentations for use in surgeries, clinics, prescribing rooms and patient waiting areas.
A public awareness campaign was among the actions recommended by a report on antimicrobial resistance, which was commissioned by the government in 2014 and published last year.
PHE said it wanted to ensure that healthcare professionals were aware of the campaign launch ahead of the general public, and felt supported in their ability to answer questions from patients about antimicrobial resistance.
“This campaign is an important step in the battle to protect our nation’s health”
It highlighted that the new campaign, called Keep Antibiotics Working, would provide nurses and midwives with evidence to support their conversations with patients, families and the general public about use of antibiotics.
Specifically, it would also provide helpful information for nurse and midwife prescribers, noted PHE in a statement about the start of the campaign.
Meanwhile, the body highlighted that the new initiative “dovetails” with its existing Antibiotics Guardian campaign aimed at healthcare professionals.
The body noted that individual nurses could support the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign by becoming an “antibiotic guardian”.
A film featuring animated pills singing about the dangers of inappropriate use of antibiotics has been developed as part of the campaign launched today.
PHE decided to use animated characters instead of real doctors and nurses in the film after it found members the public were less likely to change their actions if they were told by clinicians to reconsider their use of antibiotics due to the perception that it was a money-saving exercise.
Professor Viv Bennett, chief nurse at Public Health England said: “All nurses and midwives are on the frontline in the fight against antimicrobial resistance and so play a key role in managing patient expectations around the prescribing of antibiotics.
Professor Viv Bennett
“The Keep Antibiotics Working campaign supports the profession by educating the public about the dangers of antimicrobial resistance and the risks to their health in taking antibiotics when they are not needed,” she said.
“As antibiotics guardians, nurses and midwives can help combat the growing threat that antimicrobial resistance poses to us all,” she added.
A new report, also published today by PHE, warned that, without urgent action from everyone, all common infections, minor injuries and routine operations would become far riskier.
The latest English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance Report (ESPAUR) highlighted that four in 10 patients with an E. coli bloodstream infection in England can no longer be treated with the most commonly used antibiotic in hospitals.
PHE also noted that every year an estimated 5,000 deaths were caused in England due to antibiotic resistance and it was predicted that in just over 30 years antibiotic resistance would kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.
The campaign is being backed by the Royal College of Nursing. Rose Gallagher, the RCN’s professional lead for infection prevention and control, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a global, long-term threat and this campaign is an important step in the battle to protect our nation’s health.
“We risk simple illnesses being prolonged and even turning fatal if the issue isn’t addressed,” said Ms Gallagher.
“The nursing profession can make a significant contribution to limiting the threat of antimicrobial resistance and improving the long-term outlook of the NHS. Nursing staff must be given the resources and support to put this campaign into action,” she said.
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“Lives are being lost prematurely – it is vital that the public are aware of the dangers of taking antibiotics when they don’t need to. We urge patients to listen to the advice from nurses and other health professionals on their use,” she added.
Keep Antibiotics Working is part of a wider cross-government strategy to help preserve antibiotics.
The government’s UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013 to 2018 sets out aims to improve the knowledge and understanding of antibiotic resistance, conserve the effectiveness of existing treatments, and stimulate the development of new antibiotics, diagnostics and new therapies.