Include patients, employees, employers in fight against antibiotics overuse

Patients with the common cold or flu are encouraged to simply stay home and rest, or visit the pharmacy for basic medication to deal with any uncomfortable symptoms.
Patients with the common cold or flu are encouraged to simply stay home and rest, or visit the pharmacy for basic medication to deal with any uncomfortable symptoms.PHOTO: ST FILE

The growing resistance to antibiotics among patients, from misuse and overuse, will eventually lead to the need for more powerful and toxic antibiotics, which are already in decreasing supply and also facing increasing resistance from different types of bacteria.

This phenomenon is already being forewarned by both the World Health Organisation and the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore.

Having lived in London for the past eight years, I have become accustomed to the medical practice there.

Patients with the common cold or flu are encouraged to simply stay home and rest, or visit the pharmacy for basic medication to deal with any uncomfortable symptoms.

Visits to GPs are discouraged as these conditions cannot be treated. Only rest is needed.

Furthermore, most UK employers I know do not require employees to produce medical certificates if they are unwell and wish to stay at home to recuperate.

There is a high degree of trust that goes both ways - employees are responsible for not exposing their colleagues to contagious symptoms, and employers understand that a few days of rest are required for unwell employees to be more productive in the long run.

Unwell employees are trusted to use their own judgment if they require a day or two of rest at home.

Here in Singapore, both public and private hospitals have already introduced antimicrobial stewardship programmes.

But it strikes me that the need for stewardship and responsibility should also extend to patients, employees and employers.

Critically, general practitioners who are incentivised to satisfy patients insisting on antibiotics, or who stand to profit from selling more drugs to their patients, need to be engaged.

Jacqueline Lim Hsiu Mei (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2019, with the headline 'Include patients, employees, employers in fight against antibiotics overuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe