Your local pharmacy is helping to keep antibiotics working

Raymond Anderson

Pharmacies here are stepping up their efforts to help keep antibiotics working in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

More than 500 community pharmacies are taking part in the Living Well service, which provides information and advice on key public health issues.

Living Well is a Public Health Agency (PHA), Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI) collaboration, with the current phase of the campaign focussing on getting the best advice on antibiotics.

Dr Jenny Mack, Public Health Doctor at the PHA, said: “We use more antibiotics than we need to and because antibiotics are not always used appropriately, bacteria are becoming resistant.

“As a result, some antibiotics have become less effective against the bacterial infections they were designed to treat. Infections caused by resistant bacteria can be very difficult to treat and can be serious.

“All sectors within the health service are working towards the proper prescribing of antibiotics, so the participation of community pharmacies in highlighting to the public the proper use of antibiotics is a welcome addition to help increase the understanding among all of us on using antibiotics correctly.”

Raymond Anderson from Anderson’s Pharmacy in Craigavon, which is participating in the Living Well programme, said: “It’s important we remember that antibiotics are not effective against simple infections, such as a cold or flu. Most simple infections clear up on their own and most coughs, sore throats or earaches do not need antibiotics. Your body can usually fight these infections on its own.

“The first place to get advice on these types of infections is your pharmacist. They can provide valuable advice and also recommend over-the-counter medicines to help manage your symptoms.

“As we move through winter, we do tend to see more people with minor illnesses that won’t need antibiotics. So seek help and advice from your local pharmacy. During the Living Well programme, pharmacy staff will be on hand to answer any questions you have.”

Joe Brogan, Assistant Director of Integrated Care and Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management at the HSCB, said: “Antibiotic resistance is something that affects everyone, so it’s important that we all take steps to help keep antibiotics working.

“When it comes to getting health advice and treatment in one place, the community pharmacist probably has it covered. They can offer one-to-one advice from a healthcare professional, often without the need to book an appointment. If you have a minor ailment or require a consultation about a recent health issue, your pharmacist can help. Pharmacists are highly-trained healthcare professionals who have a vast knowledge of symptoms and appropriate treatments. They can advise what medication to take, the dosage required and any side effects, and provide advice on how best to use it.

“The pharmacy is the first place to seek help, but if you do see your doctor, they’ll assess your symptoms and advise you on the correct treatment. Take your doctor’s advice and don’t demand antibiotics.

“If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, make sure you take it according to their instructions. Complete the course and don’t just stop because you’re feeling a bit better.

“And remember, never share antibiotics with anyone else.”

For more info on using antibiotics correctly, visit

You can also reduce your likelihood of developing flu, which is caused by a virus and can’t be tackled by an antibiotic, by getting the free vaccine if you are in an eligible group.

For further information on staying well this winter, including details on how to get the free flu vaccine, see

Raymond Anderson