An apple a day


It’s been 1-2 days: you’ve a temperature of 38.5/39oC, a cough (not dry), sore throat, and paracetamol is all that keeps your temperature normal (37oC). What do you do?

Your options: visit the GP (though you may not get in on short notice), visit an NHS walk-in centre, or call NHS direct and talk to a nurse. Say you’re lucky enough get into your GP, who prescribes you antibiotics. Problem solved! Or is it…?

Now, let’s say you didn’t get antibiotics, but were instead told you had a virus — go home, rest and come back if it gets much worse.

Which would you choose?

These days, antibiotics are being over-prescribed in the UK. Taking antibiotics for a virus will not cure the infection. In fact, £270 million, put forth by Health Secretary Alan Johnson earlier this year, will be spent to advertise this simple fact.

So who is to blame: GPs for being uninformed, or patients for being too demanding and pushy?

Last year, 38 million prescriptions for antibiotics on the NHS cost taxpayers £175 million. New guidance has been issued to GPs to try and reduce this level, to help prevent building immunity. MRSA, for example, is antibiotic resistant, as are other superbugs plaguing hospital wards. But — more interestingly, this call is coming from the NHS drugs rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (‘NICE’).

Notice — the body in charge of drugs for NHS is asking for fewer drugs to be prescribed. Yes, this will have some effect against superbugs, but nearly TWICE as much money is being spent telling people they don’t need the prescriptions than is spent filling them. Perhaps, financial motives taking precedent over health? It’s a little hard to believe taking penicillin a few more times than necessary will make you susceptible to MRSA.

According to the General Medical Council GPs have a responsibility to patients to, “provide effective treatments based on the best available evidence; take steps to alleviate pain and distress whether or not a cure may be possible." GPs should be upholding this and letting the rest cure the virus.