UKCPA viewpoint: antimicrobial stewards

Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to future healthcare and has clinical, public health and economic implications.

The NICE guidance on antimicrobial stewardship (August 2015) and Public Health England’s ‘Start smart – then focus’ antimicrobial stewardship toolkit (updated March 2015) encourage prudent use of antimicrobials.

Public Health England, NHS England and Health Education England are also addressing the situation through the implementation of an antimicrobial resistance (AMR) programme.

Integral role

Pharmacists have an integral role to play in promoting appropriate antimicrobial use in the community by:

  • Educating patients/parents/carers to take antimicrobials properly by including information on whether they should be taken before/with or after food, interactions with other medications, and warning patients about side-effects, especially antimicrobialassociated diarrhoea
  • Discussing AMR with patients/parents/carers as opportunity arises and taking part in activities such as European Antibiotics Awareness Day (EAAD), which takes place on November 18 each year, to emphasise the critical importance of responsible antimicrobial prescribing in hospitals and the community
  • Managing public expectations around antimicrobial use, especially in connection with common winter ailments such as colds, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache) that often get better without antimicrobials. Community pharmacists can provide guidance for symptom relief, self-care and appropriate referral if required.

Patients can also be made aware of the durations of these common winter ailments. The ‘Treat yourself better without antibiotics public health campaign can assist pharmacists with this

  • Promoting the annual seasonal flu vaccination
  • Using the RCGP’s TARGET (Treat Antibiotics Responsibly, Guidance, Education and Tools) toolkit to help influence prescribers’ and patients’ personal attitudes, social norms and perceived barriers to what would be regarded as optimal antibiotic prescribing
  • Inviting the public to become antibiotic guardians and becoming one themselves.

Want to know more?

If you would like to develop your knowledge on antimicrobial stewardship, there is a free online course run in conjunction with the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, University of Dundee and Future Learn. The six-week course, comprising three hours per week, is aimed at all healthcare professionals (click here for more information).

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