Press release

Country’s most recognisable doctors explain antibiotic resistance

The Chief Medical Officer and some of the country’s most recognisable doctors have issued a video to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance.

Public Health England (PHE) is today (15 January 2016) issuing an urgent video appeal designed to raise awareness of the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) with parents and to offer advice on how each and every one of us can play a part in tackling it.

AMR occurs when bacteria in our bodies adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic medicine. When this happens, antibiotics lose their effectiveness and no longer work in fighting off infection caused by these bacteria. The more we use antibiotics, the greater the chance that bacteria in our bodies will develop resistance to these vital medicines.

If our antibiotics can no longer fight bacteria that cause infections, in the future this could mean that routine operations such as knee surgery or caesarian sections could become deadly. It is estimated that there are 400,000 cases of reported antibiotic resistant infections with 25,000 deaths each year in the European Union.

Today’s appeal sees the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, come together with Dr Hilary Jones, Dr Rosemary Leonard, Dr Sarah Jarvis, Dr Ellie Cannon and Dr Carol Cooper to explain the consequences of a world without effective antibiotics. They also offer advice to parents on how they can keep their families well this winter and help play a part in preserving the antibiotics that we have now. The NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign gives people the information they need to look after themselves during the colder months.

It is recommended to:

  • keep surfaces clean
  • wash your and your children’s hands regularly
  • carry tissues and use them to catch coughs or sneezes; make sure you bin tissues and kill the germs by washing your hands
  • If you or your family start to feel unwell, even if it is just a cough or cold, don’t wait until it gets worse, seek immediate advice from your pharmacist
  • keep yourself warm - heat your home to least 18°C or (65°F) if you can
  • if you have been prescribed antibiotics or other medication, make sure you take them as directed
  • remember that sore throats, colds, coughs and earaches are self-limiting, usually getting better on their own but pharmacists can recommend over-the-counter remedies to help

Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies said:

Resistance to antibiotics is putting people’s lives at risk, as well as creating extra pressure on our healthcare system, with drug-resistant strains of common diseases emerging here in the UK. We need to ensure that we only use antibiotics when clinically relevant, so I urge everyone to visit a pharmacist first before going to their GP, and to always complete courses of antibiotics if they are prescribed. These simple actions will help preserve these precious drugs and help to save modern medicine as we know it.

Speaking about her support for the campaign, Dr Ellie Cannon said:

As a mum of two, I completely understand that the sight of a poorly child is an upsetting one and we want to do everything we can to help our little ones get better but we must trust our GPs to know when antibiotics are and are not needed, so we urge parents not to ask for them. The threat of antibiotic resistance is real and we all have a part to play.

Watch the Public Health England antibiotic resistance appeal.

Professor Anthony Kessel, Director of International Public Health at Public Health England said:

We simply cannot sit back and ignore the problem of antibiotic resistance. To protect the effectiveness of our antibiotics, Public Health England has launched the Antibiotic Guardian campaign, an initiative where every single person in the UK and abroad can pledge to take an action that will help combat bugs becoming resistant to antibiotics. I believe we can preserve the antibiotics we have if we act now.

Background information

  1. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk and Facebook www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland.
  2. Stay Well This Winter is run in partnership with PHE and the Department of Health. It runs across a range of media including TV, radio, digital, press and poster sites.
  3. Antibiotic Guardian, a campaign led by PHE in collaboration with NHS Scotland, Public Health Wales and Health and Social Care, Northern Ireland, urges members of the public and healthcare professionals to take action in helping to slow antibiotic resistance and ensure our antibiotics work now and in the future. To become an Antibiotic Guardian, people choose one pledge at antibioticguardian.com about how they can personally prevent infections and make better use of antibiotics and help protect these vital medicines.
  4. There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. Read the Keep Warm Keep Well leaflet for more information.

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Jessica Hampton or Julia Flint