This site is intended for health professionals only

In full: The chief medical officer’s letter to GPs on the new antibiotic resistance campaign

Dear Colleague

I am writing to ask for your support in the forthcoming campaign Keep Antibiotics Working to raise public awareness and understanding of antibiotic resistance launching in England on October 23rd 2017.

We have been championing action to address antibiotic resistance at national and international level, taking a One Health approach, for over 4 years. In 2016, the Government announced a series of ambitions for the human and animal sectors; on the human side these included, making better use of diagnostic testing to support prescribing decisions and halving healthcare associated gram-negative infections and inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics by 2020/ 21. While national work is underway to support the infection and diagnostic testing related ambitions, this campaign is aimed at supporting appropriate antibiotic prescribing.

Antibiotic resistance is a very real threat that patients are facing today. If antibiotic resistant infections continue to rise and new products are not developed we will have no effective antibiotics to treat infection and routine surgery will become a high risk procedure. The O’Neill Independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) final report, Tackling Drug Resistant Infections Globally (May 2016), recommended a “massive global public awareness campaign” to tackle low public understanding and reduce inappropriate demands for antibiotics.

Public Health England (PHE) is driving this work forward in England by launching the new national campaign Keep Antibiotics Working following a successful regional pilot in February of this year.

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.

The data collected during the pilot, which took place in the North West (Granada TV region), so far suggests a positive impact on reducing public pressure on GPs to prescribe antibiotics:

  • Those in the pilot region claimed to be less likely to ask their GP for antibiotics after the campaign, whilst there was no change in the control area.
  • Those in the pilot region claiming that they would insist on an antibiotic prescription if their GP said it was not needed fell from 12% to 7%, while the proportion who would accept their GP’s view increased from 62% to 69%, with no change in the control region.
  • GPs who, prior to the campaign, had reported that the number of patients asking for antibiotics was higher than usual, said that post campaign, the number had decreased from 21% to 9%.

Keep Antibiotics Working will launch on 23rd October 2017 and will be seen across the country on billboards, TV, press, online, and heard on the radio. There are a range of free resources (posters, leaflets and Treating Your Infection pads) available to help you deliver this important message and help support conversations around self-care alternatives.

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. As a health professional you can also sign up to be an Antibiotic Guardian and pledge to use the campaign.

Keep Antibiotics Working complements and learns from existing programmes, such as the TARGET web based tool kit for primary care. As we implement this campaign we hope that it will help to inform both national and international action.

Finally, I would like to thank you for your support in tackling this important issue, and for your work in preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics for our future generations.

Yours sincerely



*Those surgeries that are signed up to, and serviced by, IDS UK for health information and public awareness campaigns through the Waiting Information Service (WIS) will automatically receive campaign packs, leaflets and posters. Additionally CCGs and other NHS or local authority networks should be communicating where they have ordered for surgeries locally. If your surgery is not covered by these processes you can order resources free from the PHE Campaign Resource Centre.

Further information about the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign, including access to digital screens and other resources can also be found PHE Campaign Resource Centre.


Visit Pulse Reference for details on 140 symptoms, including easily searchable symptoms and categories, offering you a free platform to check symptoms and receive potential diagnoses during consultations.