Together we can keep antibiotics working: for community-based health services

Guidance for GPs, pharmacists, nurses and other community-based health professionals

Together we can keep antibiotics working

Community-based health services play an essential role in tackling antibiotic resistance, so we can keep antibiotics working.

Why you need to take action

  • Antibiotic resistance is happening now in New Zealand and around the world. It can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
  • Overuse of antibiotics is the biggest driver of antibiotic resistance.
  • The level of consumption of antibiotics in New Zealand is high compared with many other countries – up to 95 percent of antibiotics are dispensed in the community.
  • In New Zealand, community-based consumption of antibiotics is estimated to have increased by up to 49 percent between 2006 and 2014.
  • Almost every child in New Zealand has been exposed to antibiotics by the time they turn five.
  • About half of the people who visited their GP in 2017 were dispensed at least one systemic antibiotic.
  • Māori and Pacific peoples are between two and four times more likely to be admitted to hospital for treatment of an infection than other New Zealanders. This means that Māori and Pacific peoples will be disproportionately impacted by worse health outcomes due to antibiotic resistance.
  • Making sure antibiotics are only prescribed when needed will reduce antibiotic use in New Zealand and help us to keep antibiotics working.

What pharmacists and pharmacy employees can do

  • Talk to patients about the importance of appropriate antibiotic use and the dangers of antibiotic resistance. (See For consumers and Together we can keep antibiotics working.)
  • Help patients understand when and when not to use antibiotics and provide advice about other ways to manage symptoms. (See For consumers, Choosing Wisely and BPAC and Goodfellow Unit resources.)
  • When a doctor has not prescribed antibiotics, provide reassurance, address concerns and provide advice about other ways to manage symptoms.
  • Talk to patients about how to prevent infections and their spread – including vaccination, good hand hygiene, safe sex and proper food handling.
  • Ask patients to return unused antibiotics to the pharmacy to ensure they are disposed of correctly. (See Amnesty information.)
  • Properly dispose of unused and expired antibiotics to reduce the chance of them entering the environment. (See Amnesty information.)
  • Support multi-disciplinary community antimicrobial stewardship programmes with your technical expertise (eg, in aged residential care).
  • Use hand hygiene to prevent the spread of infections. (See HQSC hand hygiene resources.)

What general practitioners can do

  • Prescribe in accordance with antimicrobial treatment guidelines, and where possible use diagnostics to inform treatment decisions. (See Antimicrobial prescribing guidance and antibiograms.)
  • Prescribe narrow-spectrum rather than broad-spectrum antibiotics whenever you can.
  • Check out the recommendations for using or avoiding antibiotics at Choosing Wisely. (See Choosing Wisely antibiotic messages.)
  • Talk to your patients about the importance of using antibiotics as directed and the dangers of antibiotic resistance. (See Together we can keep antibiotics working and For consumers.)
  • Give your patients advice on how to relieve symptoms of viral infections like a cold or flu, and explain that antibiotics are not effective against viruses. (See BPAC and Goodfellow Unit resources and Choosing Wisely.)
  • Talk to patients about how to prevent infections and their spread – including making sure they are vaccinated, good hand hygiene, safer sex and proper food handling.
  • Ask patients to return any unused antibiotics they have to their pharmacy so they are disposed of correctly and don’t enter the environment. (See Amnesty information.)
  • Use hand hygiene to prevent the spread of infections. (See HQSC hand hygiene resources.)

What nurses can do

  • Use hand hygiene to prevent the spread of infections. (See HQSC hand hygiene resources.)
  • Talk to patients about how to prevent infections and their spread – including making sure they are vaccinated, good hand hygiene, safer sex and proper food handling.
  • Talk to your patients and other health professionals about the importance of appropriate antibiotic use and the dangers of antibiotic resistance. (See For consumers and Together we can keep antibiotics working.)
  • Give your patients advice on how to relieve symptoms of viral infections like a cold or flu, and explain that antibiotics are not effective against viruses. (See For consumers and Choosing Wisely.)
  • Ask patients to return any unused antibiotics they have to their pharmacy so they are disposed of correctly and don’t enter the environment. (See Amnesty information.)

Resources

Videos: antibiotic resistance is a problem we can’t ignore, GP’s perspective, nurse’s role
These videos can be shared to promote antibiotic awareness. If you would like access to the video file (eg, for use in waiting rooms), email us.

Social media images
Images that can be used to promote antibiotic awareness on social media.

Keep antibiotics working (PHARMAC)
Keep antibiotics working is a PHARMAC campaign aimed at informing New Zealanders that taking antibiotics won’t fix a cold or flu. This is because colds and flu are caused by viruses, and the job of antibiotics is to treat infections caused by bacteria. The campaign also addresses earaches in young children.

Choosing Wisely Aotearoa New Zealand
Choosing Wisely New Zealand supports reducing unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures in health care. It has produced a range of consumer factsheets with advice that includes the appropriate use of antibiotics. Check out their fact sheet on managing coughs, colds and sore throats without antibiotics (PDF, 908 KB).

They also have a range of information for health professionals on appropriate antibiotic use. A summary is available at Choosing Wisely antibiotic messages, or full information on the Choosing Wisely website.

Antibiotic amnesty information
The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand, in conjunction with specialist antimicrobial stewardship pharmacists and the Ministry of Health has prepared resources for pharmacists wishing to run an ‘Antibiotic Amnesty’ in their pharmacy from 18 November 2019 until the end of 2019. This is to help raise public awareness of antimicrobial resistance and wise use of antibiotics.

Atlas of Healthcare Variation on Community Use of Antibiotics
The Health Quality and Safety Commission New Zealand produced this Atlas in 2019 to highlight regional and demographic variation in community antibiotic use, with the goal of prompting debate and raising questions about why differences exist. They have also produced a PHO analysis.

Resources for Health Professionals produced by the Best Practice Advisory Centre (BPAC) New Zealand and Goodfellow Unit

BPAC:

Goodfellow Unit:

Canterbury District Health Board Antibiotic Awareness resources
Canterbury DHB has produced these antibiotic awareness resources as part of a local Choosing Wisely campaign. Contact Mick O'Donnell at Canterbury DHB if you would like artwork files so you can amend and use locally.

Hand hygiene resources
The Health Quality and Safety Commission New Zealand has produced a range of resources supporting preventing the spread of infections through good hand hygiene.

Royal Society Te Apārangi-produced resources
Royal Society Te Apārangi has produced these antimicrobial resistance awareness resources. Contact Nancy de Bueger at Royal Society Te Apārangi for any questions about reusing these resources.

ESR surveillance information
The Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR) has an extensive surveillance programme on antimicrobial resistance.

World Health Organization (WHO) resources
In recent years, WHO has produced a number of resources (posters, infographics, social media images, videos, animated GIFs, etc) to help promote World Antibiotic Awareness Week. These are publicly available for use.

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