NHS in North Yorkshire and York pledges support for World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

The NHS in North Yorkshire and York is backing a World Health Organisation campaign which aims to increase awareness of antibiotic resistance and reduce unnecessary prescribing.

Every year, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week shines a light on global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the spread of drug-resistant infections.

This year, the theme of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November) is “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together”.

Friday (18 November) was also European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD).

With no new antibiotics developed in the last 30 years patients are encouraged only to take antibiotics if they really need to. Prudent use of antibiotics can help stop resistant bacteria from developing and help keep antibiotics effective for the use of future generations.

North Yorkshire GP Dr Bruce Willoughby, from NHS Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: “Taking antibiotics inappropriately encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. This means antibiotics may not work as well further down the line if you’re unfortunate enough to become very unwell.

“If you or a family member has a cold or other viral infection, antibiotics won’t help – they don’t work on viruses and only help in infections caused by bacteria. If you do come down with a bug this winter, rather than visiting a GP to get antibiotics, ask your local pharmacy about effective over-the-counter remedies instead.”

Ian Dean, Chief Executive Officer of Community Pharmacy North Yorkshire, added: “If you are poorly with a common winter ailment, we can recommend effective over-the-counter medicines that will help ease symptoms or pain – and pharmacy teams will point you back towards your doctor if there’s any sign of your illness being something more serious.

“In many instances a virus will run its course without any long-lasting implications. If you want to be prepared, we would also recommend keeping a ‘medicine cabinet’ of over-the-counter remedies at home – things like paracetamol, ibuprofen and anti-diarrhoea tablets may all come in handy this winter.”

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.

Without the effectiveness of antibiotics, routine operations like hip replacements, organ transplants and caesarean sections or chemotherapy treatments will become increasingly dangerous or impossible.

Researchers estimated that AMR in bacteria caused an estimated 1.27 million deaths in 2019.