Antibiotics crisis – we can all do our bit locally
Patients and doctors together can help keep antibiotics effective. NHS NE Essex CCG is asking both doctors and patients to support each other locally to do our bit in the battle to keep antibiotics effective for us.
The prime minister said:
If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again.
Dr Hasan Chowhan, clinical lead in this area for the CCG said:
We have known about the growth of resistance for some years, but it is getting rapidly worse. Research continues to look for more antibiotics to counteract bacteria that cause serious diseases in humans, but many bacteria are becoming more resistant to medicines currently available. What this means is that now around 5,000 people a year in Britain die because of antibiotic-resistant infection. If current trends continue, major life-saving surgery will become extremely risky, as post-operative infections may not be treatable. Even smaller, less serious operations of all types will become hazardous, as the risk of serious, even fatal illness from resulting infections will be too high. This is a major problem facing all of us and our families. The prime minister and the Chief Medical Officer are absolutely right to sound the alarm.
Dr Chowhan is calling on local doctors and patients to support each other:
We know that in too many cases locally, doctors prescribe antibiotics for patients when it is very unlikely they will do any good. Coughs, colds and various other usually minor illnesses caused by viruses cannot be cured or even helped by antibiotics. Indeed often antibiotics will cause other problems for the patient, such as very unpleasant digestive disorders, because the antibiotics kill the stomach and intestinal bacteria that manage our normal digestion.
Doctors can sometimes play it “safe” by prescribing just in case the patient might be aggrieved and complain if they didn’t. Sometimes the patient will insist on getting “some pills” or “some antibiotics” as they are sure that will hasten their recovery. Dr Chowhan and his colleagues in the NHS are appealing to patients to listen carefully to the doctor, and not to insist on antibiotics when it has been explained that these may not help, and may indeed produce harm. The CCG is working with local doctors to support them to understand where unnecessary prescribing is happening and to reduce it. We know from the recent “Big Care Debate” that local people in general strongly support any reduction of waste in the NHS.
When people take antibiotics that are not necessary, bacteria present can develop resistance. The more antibiotics that are taken by more people, the more resistance develops and can then spread to others, so that the patient concerned and perhaps other contacts develop resistant bacteria. The end result being that the next time they are treated, the antibiotics don’t work. Over-use in farm animals and lax regulation in some other parts of the world are also known contributors to the problem.
Dr Chowhan concluded:
This is one problem where each and every patient, as well as our doctors and nurses and pharmacists, can make a real contribution to the safety and effectiveness of our medicines now and for our families in the future. The government’s review is good news, but we don’t have to wait for that, we can do our bit now.