Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI supports European Antibiotic Awareness Day events

20 November 2014

‘Saving antibiotics is everyone's responsibility'

Doctors are being urged to take a more critical look before prescribing antibiotics as antibiotic resistance remains one of the biggest global threats to public health, an event taking place today to mark European Antibiotic Awareness Day 2014 will hear. Leaders from medical, veterinary and pharmaceutical professions are gathering today for the fourth annual antibiotic awareness event, aimed at driving further change in both public and professional behaviours and norms around antibiotic consumption.

RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) will make a presentation on the importance of undergraduate antibiotic stewardship education at today's event for doctors and healthcare professionals entitled "Safe Antibiotic Use: It is everyone's responsibility" which is taking place in the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI).

The afternoon lectures entitled "New Bugs: Few Drugs - Start Smart, Then Focus" will be chaired by Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, RCSI Senior Lecturer in Clinical Microbiology and Consultant Microbiologist, Beaumont Hospital who will make a presentation on "Prevention of Healthcare-associated Infection & Antimicrobial Resistance". The session will highlight to prescribers the importance of applying the principles outlined in the RCPI/RCSI "Start Smart and then Focus" antibiotic care bundle and following local antibiotic prescribing guidelines/primary care prescribing guidelines (www.antibioticprescribing.ie), to reduce infection-related morbidity and mortality, reduce adverse drug reactions, avoid secondary infections such as C. difficile infection and minimise antibiotic resistance.

Dr Fitzpatrick has been instrumental in leading RCSI's antimicrobial resistance awareness initiatives along with colleagues including Dr Niall Stevens, Lecturer and Teaching and Research Coordinator, Department of Clinical Microbiology, RCSI, Beaumont Hospital. As part of the technology enhanced learning initiative in RCSI, they have led a team who are developing a case-based antibiotic app for medical students in their clinical years to support antibiotic stewardship education.

In addition to local events in RCSI Hospitals, a series of national events to mark this year's European Antibiotic Awareness Day are taking place throughout this week, including the launch of antibiotic education leaflets and a new website for patients www.undertheweather.ie

Speaking at the event, Chief Medical Officer, Tony Holohan commented "We are in danger of entering a post-antibiotic era. Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a global public health crisis calling for urgent action across all sectors. All of us - patients, doctors and vets - must act now to ensure the safe and prudent use of antibiotics and protect this vital resource for public health. This is an era in which the developments of modern medicine which all of us take for granted are at risk - an era in which the dramatic falls in morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases we have witnessed are reversed and simple infections once again become killer diseases; an era in which medical procedures such as neonatal care, hip and joint replacements, organ transplants and cancer therapies become impossibly dangerous because of the risks of associated infections which we cannot treat effectively."

Dr Robert Cunney, Clinical Lead of the RCPI/HSE National Clinical Programme for Healthcare-associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) said that ongoing urgent action is needed to preserve antibiotics: "In addition to informing the public about the risks to their own health, and the ongoing viability of antibiotics if we continue to overuse and overprescribe them, the medical profession has a key role to play in ensuring all appropriate measures are followed to protect and preserve antibiotics which are a precious resource. We must take all measures to ensure that safe and effective use becomes the norm," he said.

"The evidence is that for any action to reduce the prescribing of antibiotics to be effective, a combination of prescriber education and public education and awareness is required. Our target is to significantly impact both consumer and clinical behaviour. Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar T.D. launched ‘undertherweather.ie' the public education and awareness side of the 2014 campaign earlier in the week, and today, we are hoping to equally persuade health professionals of the merits of taking a more critical look at when it is really necessary to prescribe an antibiotic," Dr Cunney concluded.

Professor Cathal Kelly, CEO/ Register, RCSI commented: "It is vital that we apply a rational approach to antibiotic prescribing that maximises the likelihood of successfully treating infections, while minimising the risk of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are a precious medical resource. As prescribers, it is up to us to ensure they are used effectively and their efficacy preserved for future generations."

40% of all Europeans wrongly believe that antibiotics work against colds and flus and according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the number of patients infected by resistant bacteria is increasing.

A unique feature of the 2014 campaign is the establishment of a joint working group between the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to tackle antimicrobial resistance. Each Department has announced enhanced arrangements for interdepartmental communication, cooperation and engagement in relation to ensuring a holistic joint national approach to addressing the issue of antibiotic resistance (AMR). This will help to ensure that all healthcare professionals across sectors join forces to combat antibiotic resistance and promote safe use of antibiotics.