Patients urged to learn about antibiotics to mark European awareness day

Health leaders in Stafford are urging people in the area to be aware of the proper uses of antibiotics and ensure that they take them responsibly.

Ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day, on Friday 18th November, doctors and NHS managers are raising awareness about the risks of taking antibiotics inappropriately and calling on patients to learn about the proper treatment of common winter conditions like coughs, colds and the flu. 

As the weather grows colder and the winter closes in, many patients will be visiting their GPs suffering from coughs, colds and flu, in the hope that they will be given antibiotics to treat their illness.

Dr Paddy Hannigan, Chair of Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group said: “It is a common misconception that antibiotics are a cure-all, but the reality is, they just won’t work in the case of a cold or the flu.

“There are many different types of antibiotics and they work against bacterial infections, not viral infections, such as colds, coughs and flu. Doctors and patients should also consider that antibiotics can have side effects.”

Over the previous 12 months, Stafford and Surrounds CCG have reduced their overall prescribing of antibiotics by 4.8 per cent and broad spectrum antibiotic prescribing by 20.0 per cent.

However, local prescribing still remains above the national average – nine out of 10 GPs say they can feel pressured by patients to prescribe antibiotics, and 97 per cent of patients who ask for antibiotics are prescribed them.

The CCG is therefore urging everyone to play their part in reducing inappropriate requests for antibiotics.

In fact, getting rest, taking care of yourself, drinking plenty of fluids and using other remedies available from pharmacies for blocked noses, sore throats and coughs are much more likely to be effective.

For patients who do require antibiotics, to reduce the risk of increasing resistance it is important to follow the doctor’s instructions carefully, not to share antibiotics with other people and to complete the full course of treatment as prescribed.

Your local pharmacist can help advise on the best way to manage most minor illnesses including the  common cold and flu.

Pharmacists can provide advice, support and treatment or signpost patients to the most appropriate healthcare provider if necessary.

At the first sign of a winter illness the NHS is advising patients to seek advice from a pharmacist. The Stay Well Campaign has been developed to support patients with a long-term condition and/or those aged over 65 years. Further information is available from

Dr Hannigan warned that the incorrect use of antibiotics in recent years had actually led to the development and spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

“Where people contract infections caused by these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, they will take much longer to get better and in some cases could become quite seriously ill,” he said.

“Keeping antibiotics effective is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to take care to use them responsibly and keep antibiotics effective for our children and future generations.”