Friday, 24 November 2017


Community asked to support European Antibiotic Awareness Day

Published on 14 Nov 2017

Antibiotic resistance


ANTIBIOTIC resistance is a major public health issue and considered to be a significant threat to the future of healthcare. 

As such, NHS Western Isles is supporting European Antibiotic Awareness Day on Saturday 18th November and encouraging local communities to become more aware of the issues surrounding antibiotics.

Antibiotics treat infections by killing bacteria but now these bacteria are fighting back, meaning that the antibiotics themselves are becoming less effective.  It has been 30 years since a new class of antibiotics was last introduced, despite the fact that growing numbers of infections are resistant to antibiotics.  

There are a number of reasons why antibiotics lose effectiveness but two of the key ones are that we take medicines we don’t need – antibiotics don’t help most colds or coughs but we still ask for antibiotics for them – and that we don’t take antibiotics exactly as prescribed, for instance by missing doses or not completing the course. Antibiotics should never be given to another person and should only be taken as prescribed.

Some of the statistics are stark. Across Europe, 25,000 people die each year from infections resistant to antibiotics. Also, the annual EU-wide cost of healthcare expenses and lost productivity due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria is estimated at 1.5billion euros. 

In Scotland, 30% of the population had at least one antibiotic prescription in 2014. However, research has shown that only 10% of the patients with sore throats and 20% of those with acute sinusitis actually benefit from antibiotic treatment.

Before the introduction of antibiotics, as recently as the 1930s, people often died from infections such as pneumonia and meningitis, while many routine treatments were much more risky due to the risk of infection. Setting broken bones, basic operations, and even chemotherapy all rely on access to antibiotics that work.

The Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group was set up in 2008 to improve the way antibiotics are used in hospital and the community across Scotland. The SAPG is supporting Public Health England’s ‘Antibiotic Guardian’ campaign, which aims to educate healthcare staff, patients and the public about antibiotic resistance – and get them signing up the pledge.

For more information on antibiotic resistance, and to sign up to the antibiotic guardian pledge, visit

Angus McKellar, NHS Western Isles Medical Director, said “NHS Western Isles GPs have worked hard to reduce unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics. They have noticed increased awareness amongst members of the public regarding the need to limit antibiotic use to infections for which they are indicated. Patients are increasingly understanding the message that antibiotics should not be prescribed for viral infections. It is important to continue this good work, ensuring that antibiotics remain effective for when they are really needed.

 “In order to slow resistance we need to cut down the unnecessary use of antibiotics. We hope that members of the public, as well as NHSWI staff, will become ‘antibiotic guardians’ and take the ‘antibiotic pledge’, to make better use of antibiotics and help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete.”

Emer Friel, NHS Western Isles Antimicrobial Pharmacist, and Janice Mackay, NHS Western Isles Infection Prevention and Control Team Manager, will be in Stornoway Tesco between 10am-11am and the Co-op between 11.15am-12.15pm on Friday 17th November offering practical advice on treating infections and how to deal with coughs and colds without antibiotics.

Emer said Taking antibiotics unnecessarily or not following the dosage instructions correctly can cause bacteria to become resistant. We cannot stop resistance but we can slow it down and stop it getting worse by using antibiotics correctly.

“Antibiotics do not work on infections caused by viruses, such as the common cold or the flu. Most symptoms such as sore throats, earache, coughs and sneezes are caused by viruses that your body fights off by itself and simple measures such as pain relief and fluids are all that are required. Your Community Pharmacist will be able to advise on appropriate products.”

NHS Western Isles is therefore issuing the following advice:

  • Accept your doctor’s advice when they suggest that antibiotics are not needed
  • If antibiotics are issued, complete your course of treatment and follow the dosage instructions.
  • Don’t share your antibiotics with anyone else
  • Don’t keep antibiotics for use on another occasion
  • Don’t purchase antibiotics abroad.


Further information on getting well soon without using antibiotics and on the antibiotic guardian programme is available at