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St Mary’s NHS Treatment Centre helps to educate patients about antibiotics

November 13 2017

The World Health Organisation’s Antibiotic Awareness Week runs from November 13 to 19 and the team at St Mary’s NHS Treatment Centre are giving patients the message that our time with antibiotics is running out.

The global theme of this year’s week is antimicrobial resistance. Amy O'Keeffe, the centre’s Minor Injury Unit (MIU) assistant practitioner and pharmacy assistant, explained: “We want to educate visitors to the MIU on what will help them get better, and that does not necessarily include antibiotics.”

As well as a colourful waiting room display of posters and interesting facts, explaining how the inappropriate and overuse of antibiotics leads to bacteria becoming resistant, there will also be quizzes and activities for the children and parents.

Amy said: “I feel very passionate about spreading an understanding of how microbial resistance happens. Although it sounds like science that does not affect the person on the street, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Put simply, in a large population of bacteria, there may be some that are not affected by an antibiotic. While others die, these survive and reproduce, creating more bacteria that are not affected by the antibiotic. The more people are prescribed antibiotics, the more resistant strains are created.

“Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats facing us as we move into the next decade. England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, has already warned of a ‘post-antibiotic apocalypse’. If the drugs cannot do their job, infections not only become harder to treat, but also common medical procedures such as joint replacements or gall bladder removals could become a risk.

“So, while we do not want to scare people, we do need them to understand that we will only ever prescribe antibiotics when they are genuinely needed. However, when it is also appropriate - such as in the case of a cold or viruses such as flu - we will advise people to take over-the-counter medication, such as paracetamol, and to keep hydrated and get plenty of rest. This way the antibiotics will work for us all when we need them.”