With up to 85% of prescribing of antibiotics in England taking place in primary care and community settings, nurses working in these settings are in a unique position to drive the preservation of one of the most precious commodities on our planet. Nurses have a valuable opportunity to provide one-to-one education and support in two key areas to all sections of the community, from parents of young children to the elderly, from members of the public to health professionals. First, around preventing infection from occurring in the first place, thus negating the need for antibiotics and, secondly, around ensuring that when infection does occur it is managed effectively from the start.
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest global threats to health that we face today. A report by the WHO1 in April this year advised that 'this serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region' of the world. Antimicrobial resistance, which includes resistance to antibiotics, antifungals, antiparasitics and antivirals, is not a new phenomenon, and was first detected soon after the discovery of antibiotics. Neither is it completely man-made, rather it is a natural evolutionary process – all life forms adapt to survive. However, human beings have contributed to this process by using antibiotics both inappropriately and excessively, increasing the rate and expansion of resistance.