Doctors and nurses have been urged to say no to patients who demand antibiotics for ailments, against which they are unlikely to be effective, such as coughs and colds.
The call comes after a Health Protection Agency (HPA) survey found that 97% of patients who had requested antibiotics from their GP had been given the medication.
In more than 50% of cases, patients demanded antibiotics to treat coughs and colds, even though they do not tackle most viral conditions.
A fifth of patients said they had been to see their GP with flu or a sore throat, with more than half of these (53%) saying they expected to be given antibiotics and a quarter saying they believed this medication would be effective.
It is feared that overusing antibiotics could lead to an increase in hospital bugs which are resistant to current preventive measures, a problem which already accounts for around 25,000 patient deaths across the EU annually from infections caused by bacteria resistant to to antimicrobial medicines.
HPA head of primary care Dr Cliodna McNulty said: “Health professionals need to learn to resist demands from patients for treatments they know have little or no effect on coughs and colds.”