Pharmacies play key role in reducing the number of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions

Recently, Public Health England announced that the number of antibiotic prescriptions should be cut by 10 per cent over the next two years to meet the government’s ambition to halve the rate of inappropriate prescribing by 2020. Our Head of Healthcare Policy and Strategy, Clare Kerr, suggests that patients could support this initiative by visiting their pharmacy as a first port of call. Pharmacies have a wealth of knowledge and expertise and can advise patients about over-the-counter medicines, which may be a more appropriate treatment rather than antibiotics, and provide self-care advice.

According to Public Health England, one in five prescriptions for antibiotics given out by GPs in England is unnecessary. Researchers, who monitored 349 GP practices between 2013 and 2015, found 41 per cent of patients with a cough were given antibiotics, whereas experts estimate only 10 per cent of coughs will benefit from antibiotics. Also, 59 per cent of those with sore throats were given antibiotics when only 13 per cent should have received them.

Last week a study found that tens of thousands of patients suffered superbugs because antibiotics, which should protect them during surgery, had failed. Drug-resistant infections are a major concern to modern medicine and inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics is only adding to the problem. If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, routine treatments or medical interventions would become incredibly risky and could be a thing of the past. It is important that patients are more aware of this issue and the implications it can have on their health and the future of the next generation.

The GP has historically been the first place for patients to visit for many non-emergency health queries, however visiting a local pharmacist for help and advice about a cough, cold or minor ailment is an option for patients.

Pharmacists are highly qualified to offer more than just a service where they dispense medicine to patients. We want people to think ‘pharmacy first’ and recognise us as the place to go for advice and treatment.

Furthermore, we can have an extremely positive impact on the health of the communities we serve due to the engagement pharmacy teams have with their patients every day. Our pharmacists will offer advice on conditions and medications, and if appropriate, they will refer a patient to their GP if they feel it necessary. Also, pharmacies often have extended opening hours with no appointment necessary and are positioned conveniently within communities, making them an ideal source to treat minor injuries and common ailments.