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Government launches campaign to stop patients pressuring GPs for antibiotics

Patients should not put pressure on their GPs to prescribe antibiotics according to a TV and social media advertising campaign that will run across England for the next two months.

The Keep Antibiotics Working programme, launching today, features musical antibiotics singing about the grave threat of resistance and warning patients to 'always take your doctor's advice'.

It will also provide practices with leaflets and posters for the surgery to aid conversations with patients and in the run-up to winter.

The national programme follows a successful pilot in the North West of England earlier this year, which reported a six percentage point decrease in the number of patients asking their GP for antibiotics.

The number of GPs reporting they were frequently asked to prescribe antibiotics also fell in the pilot, by almost 10%.

The campaign, being run by Public Health England, says it tackles the lack of patient understanding about when antibiotics are appropriate.

The website says: ‘Research shows that inappropriate prescribing is, in part, due to patients expecting or demanding antibiotics, without understanding whether that they may not be effective for their illness.’

It will be aimed at women 20-45 who, the website says, typically take responsibility for doctor's visits and care giving, and patients over 50 with recurrent conditions.

An example of the resources for practices says: ‘Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk – take your doctor’s advice’.

In a letter to health professionals, England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies writes: ‘The aim of the campaign is to increase awareness of taking antibiotics when you don’t need them, in turn supporting the efforts of local doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners in reducing inappropriate prescribing due to patient pressure.

‘The campaign encourages the public to take their doctor or nurse’s advice when it comes to the need for antibiotics.

‘I urge you to support this campaign by ordering the campaign GP resource pack, displaying them prominently and using them in your interactions with patients and the public.’

Every year around 5,000 deaths are caused in England due to antibiotic resistance and some studies predict that, in 30 years, resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.

This campaign is intended to continue the significant strides made by the profession in cutting antibiotic prescribing.

Around 2.5 million fewer prescriptions have been issued by GPs since the launch of the Government’s Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy in 2013 - a 13% decrease in three years from a peak in 2014.

It will also help hit the target of halving inappropriate antibiotic prescribing by 2020.

The musical advert will run on TV for the next eight weeks

Readers' comments (11)

  • Saw this ad last night on TV . I hope they run this campaign in multiple languages as well

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  • Finally!

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  • Mr Mephisto

    At least they put the onus on patients this time around and stopped blaming GP's (for now at least).

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  • Bornjovial

    Well this is one good thing from NHSE and I support the same.
    I hope to be able to put it on our practice display in the waiting room.

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  • The government have driven this demand by prosecuting doctors for 'missed sepsis' and also persecuting them through the GMC. Until there is reform of the regulation and medico-legal system there is very little hope for antibiotic resistance. In fact things are now so bad, it almost looks like the government want this to happen...

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  • Is the use of antibiotics in agriculture not of at least equal importance in causing resistance?

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  • Will they be singing in Urdu,Kurdish,Polish and Arabic?

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  • This comment has been moderated

  • I've been shown data that resistant bacteria isolated from agriculture are quite different strains from those found in the human population. However since we consume animal products there is no doubt some opportunity for those genes to be passed on. As usual in business though, profits come first.

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  • Whats the chance if the $hit hits the fan, likes of Dr Robert Varnam will say "GP choose not to prescribe".

    It's the right concept but with no show of confidence from the this lot, it's not going to change the culture until current system of blaming everything on clinician stops

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  • Finally some support. I do believe it should be society as a whole who takes on responsibility for antibiotic resistance and not just a stick to beat GPs with.

    We also need to teach at primary school level the difference between a virus and bacteria if we expect society to change. Running an ad for a few months will soon be forgetton.

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