Antibiotic awareness week a reminder to use antibiotics with care

16 Nov 2016 | Infection Prevention & Control

The Health Quality & Safety Commission is supporting an international campaign on careful use of antibiotics during World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

The week aims to increase awareness of antibiotic resistance and to encourage good practice among the general public, health care workers, policy makers and the farming sector to avoid further spread of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is the ability of germs or microbes to resist the effects of antibiotics – the germs are not killed, and their growth is not stopped.

The Commission is already supporting national and international efforts to reduce antibiotic resistance.

’For the past three years the Commission’s national surgical site infection improvement programme has been promoting appropriate antibiotic use,’ says Dr Sally Roberts, Commission clinical lead for infection prevention and control.

‘Giving antibiotics in the right dose at the right time reduces the risk of infection following hip, knee and cardiac surgery, so patients receive the maximum possible benefit and there is a reduced likelihood of resistance developing.’

The programme has improved the use of the correct dose of antibiotics given in the hour before surgery from 63 to 96 percent in district health board hospitals. The timing of pre-surgical antibiotics has improved from 89 to 97 percent. The Commission is also working with the ministries of health and primary industries to develop a national action plan to tackle antibiotic resistance in New Zealand. This is expected to be released by mid-2017.

To improve quality of care and patient safety, the Commission promotes and supports a multidisciplinary approach to good prescribing practice. Effective teamwork between surgeons, anaesthetists and perioperative nurses working closely with infection prevention and control teams, quality managers and senior leaders is central to ongoing improvements in surgical antibiotic stewardship.

'Consumers can take action by not expecting antibiotics when they have viral infections, and taking antibiotics as prescribed,’ says Dr Roberts.

‘Taking incomplete courses of antibiotics or sharing a course of treatment with others can contribute to an increase in resistance. Doctors, pharmacists, midwives and nurse prescribers who take the time to explain why "using antibiotics with care" will benefit us all are also helping create a culture that values antibiotics as a precious global resource.’

The Commission encourages all health providers to help raise awareness of this issue. If we all handle antibiotics with care, we can make a difference and a better future.

Download the list of supporting resources for World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Last updated 16/11/2016