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World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2023, is a global campaign which begins this week (18 November) aims to encourage people to use antibiotics correctly and raises awareness of antimicrobial resistance, so that they continue to work effectively in the future for all.

People are being asked by the NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) to think about their antibiotic usage as the World Health Organisation considers antimicrobial resistance (or antibiotic resistance) to be one of today's biggest threats to global health, with antimicrobial resistance considered an international health issue and emergency.

The North East and North Cumbria regions have some of the highest rates of antibiotic prescribing in the country. The more we seem to use antimicrobials, the greater the risk of gaining a resistance to the drugs prescribed, and as a result antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.

This is an ever-accelerating issue of resistance to medication. It is estimated that at least 20 per cent of all antibiotic prescriptions are not needed. If we don’t act fast, antibiotic resistance will become an ever more serious problem, making common interventions such as hip replacements, caesarean sections, and chemotherapy more complex. 

Dr Neil O’Brien, executive medical director, North East and North Cumbria ICB, and a GP in County Durham said: “When used appropriately antimicrobials are essential to treat serious infections. Yet, the most common winter infections we see such as coughs, colds, sore throats, and flu can often get better on their own without antibiotics.

“Always take your healthcare professionals’ advice on whether you need antibiotics and take them exactly as prescribed. Never save them for later and never share them with others. Make friends and family aware of antibiotic resistance and remember that COVID, flu and other viruses do not respond to antibiotics.

“We are working with hospitals and GP practices to reduce prescribing where possible, but we can't do it alone. This is why we are urging patients to work with us to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.”

To show support for this world wide call to action for change, Dr O'Brien, along with other organisations across the country, have pledged their support. “As an Antibiotic Guardian, I pledge to ensure that prescribers across our region are informed about the seriousness of antimicrobial resistance and encourage the prescribing of antibiotics in line with national guidance, so that we can all make better use of antibiotics and help to keep these crucially vital medicines working long into the future".

Locally, people can also pledge how they can make better use of antibiotics, by signing up as a guardian at www.antibioticguardian.com.

Additional information about the WAAW 2022 campaign can be found here.

Visit NHS | North East and North Cumbria ICS | #Staywell (staywell-nenc.co.uk)  for more information on how to manage your health and choosing the right services for you this winter.

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