As part of our winter campaign each week we are sharing advice and tips from our staff. This week, Paul Fieldhouse, our chief pharmacist has shared information about antibiotics and what we can do to keep them working. 

I have been a pharmacist for over 30 years and during my career the NHS has provided antibiotics to millions of children and adults across the country. The discovery of antibiotics was one of the most significant medical achievements of the 20th century and antibiotics are used across the globe to treat or prevent bacterial infections that would have previously been untreatable.

There are many different types of antibiotics and they all work by killing bacteria or by preventing bacteria from spreading. Unfortunately, throughout the last century, while we were discovering new antibiotics we also discovered that within two years of each new antibiotic becoming available some bacteria would already be resistant to the antibiotic. This means the antibiotic no longer works.  Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate due to over use.

We are looking for new antibiotics all the time but we have to make sure that we use our current antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.  This autumn I will be taking part in the World Health Organisation and NHS campaigns to raise awareness of the need to preserve our antibiotics. I will be sharing key messages with my colleagues and encouraging them to share the following messages with our patients:

  • Antibiotics do not work against viral infections
  • We should not use antibiotics routinely for most coughs, sore throats, the common cold or ear infections in children as these are usually caused by viruses
  • Even if an infection is caused by a bacteria our bodies can often recover from the bacterial infection without using antibiotics

You can help too by remembering that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them could be putting you and your family at risk.

Find out more about antibiotic use at