GPs in the North East are using their winter ‘Keep Calm’ campaign to highlight their concerns about the public’s perception that antibiotics are the stock solution to many common winter ailments.
And 9/10 GPs have revealed that patients visiting them in their surgery expect to be prescribed antibiotics for winter ailments, when in actual fact the drugs have little or no effect with coughs and colds.
As part of the regional winter NHS ‘Keep Calm’ campaign, the 12 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the area are keen to bust some myths about antibiotics:
- Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate – bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, which means they no longer work
- Many patients expect their GP to prescribe them antibiotics, even for cases that will get better naturally or respond better with other treatments
- Antibiotics do not work for ALL colds, or for most coughs, sore throats or earache. Your body can usually fight these infections on its own
- Antibiotics can also cause side effects such as rashes, stomach pains and reactions to sunlight
- Producing green phlegm or snot is not always a sign of a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics to get better
- Most infections that result in you producing lots of phlegm or snot are viral illnesses and will get better on their own, although you can expect to feel poorly for a few weeks.
Dr Martin Wright, Medical Director of NHS North Tyneside CCG said: “What we really need is an honest conversation between Doctor and patient that asks ‘are these absolutely necessary?’ or can we save them until we really need them.
“It’s important that we use antibiotics in the right way, at the right dose to ensure they are most effective.
“Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of antibiotic, becoming resistant so that the antibiotic no longer works. The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it.
“Antibiotics can also have side effects as they upset the natural balance of bacteria potentially resulting in diarrhoea and/or thrush. The use of inappropriate antibiotics may also allow other more harmful bacteria to increase.
“The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is plenty of fluids and rest. For more advice, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.”
Speaking earlier this year, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said: “Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics.”
The Keep Calm plea is one of three key messages being highlighted by NHS organisations across the region in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham, Darlington and Teesside. They have joined forces to back the ‘Keep Calm’ campaign which gives advice on how to treat a range of common winter conditions by keeping a well-stocked medicines cabinet at home or speaking to your local pharmacist.
The Keep Calm campaign launched on 17 November and includes a dedicated website www.keepcalmthiswinter.org.uk with information on common winter illnesses, what the symptoms are, how to treat them, how long they will last. It includes advice on what to keep in your winter medicines cabinet so you can be ready to treat illnesses as they start.
The campaign will be seen on regional TV adverts, buses, social media and printed materials in GP practices, pharmacies and other venues across the region. It is targeting normally healthy people who suffer a winter ailment.
The campaign message of ‘Keep Calm and look after yourself’ runs across three threads including:
- Keep Calm and ask a pharmacist
- Keep Calm and call 111
- Keep Calm and antibiotics aren’t always the answer
Don’t forget to follow the campaign on Twitter:
And use the hashtag #keepcalmne when you Tweet.