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​Help us to keep antibiotics working in Lewisham

Antibiotics are a precious resource that we have to use wisely – that's the message that we're keen for everyone in Lewisham to know during World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW, 18-24 November).

Used regularly since the 1940s, antibiotics have been responsible for saving countless lives. But over recent years, the availability of antibiotics and their misuse and overuse has led to some bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics – reducing their effectiveness.

"Before the advent of antibiotics, we were very much at the mercy of bacterial infections," said Dr Charles Gostling, local GP and Senior Clinical Director for Lewisham CCG. "Bacterial infection was a leading cause of death – but in the passage of time it's easy to forget this."

Dr Gostling added: "Over recent years, because antibiotics have been overused or used inappropriately, some bacteria have acquired resistance. This means that it's much more difficult to treat them using the antibiotics that we've relied on in the past. It's a worldwide problem."

In the UK, the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections has increased by 35 per cent from 2013 to 2017. 

A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhoea, and foodborne diseases – are becoming harder to treat.

But despite this, we can all make a positive difference by taking the following steps:

  • Antibiotics are designed to attack bacteria – not viruses. So you should never ask your GP for antibiotics when you have a cold. You may just end up killing 'good' bacteria in your body – and creating an opportunity for harmful bacteria to fill their space.
  • If you are prescribed antibiotics for any reason, make sure that you don't stop taking your medicine too early.
  • Don't stockpile leftover antibiotics and try to medicate yourself. Not every antibiotic works for every infection. Your GP prescribes a specific antibiotic based on what kind of infection you have. He or she also selects a specific dose and length for your treatment.

Dr Gostling said: "If your GP doesn't prescribe you antibiotics, it means that you don't need them.

"Antibiotic resistance is serious, and developing new ones isn't a quick fix. Antibiotics are expensive to produce and can take a long time to become available to clinicians and patients. That's why decades have passed since a new one was developed.

"By taking the advice you can help yourself, the NHS – and play an active part in tackling antibiotic resistance."