New guidance encourages pharmacists and other healthcare professionals (HCPs) to say ‘no’ to patients requesting antibiotics for minor illnesses.

The new guidance – issued by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the UK Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of General Practitioners – calls on HCPs to “resist pressure from patients for unnecessary prescriptions” and to suggest alternatives.

In addition, the Joint Statement on Antimicrobial Resistance says HCPs should “take personal responsibility for re-educating the public about the potentially disastrous consequences that can result if antibiotics are over-used or misused”.

HCPs should take action to “enable changes in culture around antibiotic prescribing and use across all settings” and challenge “the attitude whereby use of antimicrobials is seen as a ‘better safe than sorry’ option”. All HCPs “have a duty to educate and engage with patients and the public about the steps they can take to reduce possible risks of infection, and how they can minimise unnecessary use of antibiotics”.

The statement also makes recommendations aimed at policy-makers including:

  • Improved monitoring of antibiotic prescriptions
  • A minimum dosage for antibiotics
  • Revised guidance on antibiotic dosage

The joint group also wants mandatory labelling of foods that use antibiotics as growth promoters and incentives to reduce international use of antibiotics in animals and crops.

“If we are to have effective antibiotics in 20 years, public and healthcare professionals need to change their attitude to antibiotics now,” says Phil Howard, consultant pharmacist in antimicrobials from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

“We need to develop a culture of self-care that minimises infection risks through better hygiene, having recommended vaccination, and only resorting to antibiotics for treating serious infections.”

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