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Health leaders urge people to think about their antibiotic use during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

People are being asked by the NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) to think about their antibiotic use 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 emergency.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2022, a global campaign which starts today (18 November) aims to raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance and to encourage people to use antibiotics correctly, so that they continue to work effectively in the future.

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

It is estimated that at least 20 per cent of all antibiotic prescriptions are not needed, and this is accelerating the problem of resistance. If we don’t take action, antibiotic resistance will become a 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. However, the most common winter infections we see like 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 many other organisations across the country, has also pledged his 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 keep these vital medicines working in the future".

Local 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 - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/european-antibiotic-awareness-day-resources-toolkit-for-healthcare-professionals-in-england/world-antimicrobial-awareness-week-waaw-and-european-antibiotic-awareness-day-eaad

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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