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Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commisioning Group

Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commisioning Group

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Don’t overuse antibiotics this winter, says the region’s NHS

As the NHS steps up its Stay Well This Winter campaign this week, GPs in the North East are highlighting their concerns about the level of public demand for antibiotics.

With the NHS’s busiest time of year approaching, doctors are keen to challenge the common perception that antibiotics are the stock solution for common winter ailments.

Nine out of ten GPs say that patients visiting their surgery expect to be prescribed antibiotics for winter ailments, when in fact the drugs have little or no effect on coughs and colds.

As the season of coughs, colds and viruses gets underway, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the region are keen to bust the myths about antibiotics:

Antibiotic mythbuster

·       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 requiring 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 David Jones, Clinical Director at NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It’s time for an honest conversation between doctor and patient that asks ‘are these absolutely necessary?’ to ensure that we save them until they are really needed.

“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 antibiotics, becoming resistant so that it 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. Inappropriate use of 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.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, has warned that antimicrobial resistance poses a potentially ‘catastrophic threat’ to our future health, if we do not act now.

The warning comes as the NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign steps up a gear in the region to coincide with European Antibiotics Awareness Day on 18 November. The national Stay Well This Winter campaign was launched last month by NHS England and Public Health England, with advertising and promotional activity taking place throughout winter.

Now the region’s CCGs are lending their weight to the campaign with additional online, on-street and bus advertising as well as a link-up with radio stations Metro, Magic and TFM.

Alongside the concern to preserve antibiotics, the regional focus is on encouraging people to prepare for common winter ailments which can be easily treated at home or with advice from a pharmacist – keeping valuable appointments with doctors and nurses open for those who really need them.

The campaign will continue throughout the busy Christmas holiday period, targeting people who are usually in good health and perhaps wake up one morning feeling under the weather and don’t know what to do.

For more information about keeping well in winter, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell.