This week is World Antibiotic Awareness week and the NHS in north Cumbria is highlighting the risk of antibiotic resistance, as well as urging that everyone is responsible for keeping antibiotics working.

Antibiotics are essential medicines for treating bacterial infections in both humans and animals.

NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group’s Director of Nursing and Quality, Anna Stabler, explained: “Antibiotic medicines lose their effectiveness over time as bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of them. When this happens the bacteria  is described as ‘antibiotic resistant’, and the antibiotic no longer works.

“This severely limits the number of antibiotics available for a treatment, and could enable a number of bacterial diseases to spread and no longer be treated.

With antibiotic resistance increasing and few new antibiotics being discovered in recent years, it is now a serious public health threat.

Anna continued: “There are very few new antibiotics in the development pipeline, which is why it is important we use our existing antibiotics wisely and make sure these life-saving medicines continue to stay effective for us, our children and grandchildren.”

There have been improvements in antibiotic prescribing over the last five years; however, despite the clear risks of antibiotic resistance, they are still being used unnecessarily. All colds and most coughs, sinusitis, earache and sore throats get better without antibiotics.

People are also urged to only take antibiotic as prescribed and to never save them for later or share them with others. Anna added: “It is important we use antibiotics in the right way -  the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time for the right duration. Appropriate use of antibiotics will slow down the development of antibiotic resistance.”

Community pharmacists are well placed to help provide advice on over the counter medicines to manage symptoms and help with self-care.

‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ is an awareness raising campaign for antibiotic resistance and encourages greater trust in doctors’ advice when it comes to whether to take antibiotics or not.