Pharmacist expertise and clinical knowledge are key contributors to the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). As the profession observes ‘World Antimicrobial Awareness Week’ from 18–24 November 2022, it is a great opportunity to share and publicise examples of exciting and innovative new ventures designed to help fight AMR and promote antimicrobial stewardship (AMS).
In 2022, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Boots UK are working together to incorporate the ‘Antibiotic guardian schools ambassadors project’ within the Boots trainee pharmacist programme on a national scale. This collaboration will allow trainee pharmacists to join the fight against AMR.
AMS refers to an organisational or healthcare system-wide approach to promote and monitor the safe and appropriate use of antimicrobials and preserve their future effectiveness. This includes the promotion of infection prevention campaigns and raising awareness. Campaigns such as ‘Become an antibiotic guardian’, spearheaded by the UKHSA and now a global resource, are essential in promoting AMS.
‘Antibiotic guardians’ are a community of individuals and organisations who have taken pledges to make better use of antimicrobials and help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete. This campaign is ever-growing and focused on tackling AMR. Public engagement with the antibiotic guardian campaign continued at high levels over the past year; this was particularly driven by community pharmacy.
The ‘Antibiotic guardian schools ambassadors project’ stemmed from the campaign and invites healthcare and public health professionals, local authority health protection advisers and scientists to get involved by educating young people on public health topics, such as microbes, hygiene, infection prevention and antibiotics.
This targeted education is especially important as statistics show a large proportion of antibiotics are prescribed to young people. The pilot project has now entered its fourth year and is continuing to evolve. From 2019–2021, 228 individuals registered to become an ambassador and most of these volunteers were pharmacy professionals.
Three quarters of the ambassadors in 2019 and 2022 identified that taking part in this programme helped them personally and/or professionally. In 2021, the programme also aimed to target the most deprived areas, which led to higher engagement, especially in the North West, Midlands, North East and Yorkshire. The 2021–2022 ‘English surveillance programme for antimicrobial utilisation and resistance’ (ESPAUR) report contains analysis of the antibiotic guardian initiatives as well as many others in the fight against AMR.
The UKHSA and Boots UK’s ‘Antibiotic guardian schools ambassadors project’ will allow trainee pharmacists to participate in a national public health awareness campaign, gain valuable skills and become antibiotic guardians. AMR and AMS are important topics for early career pharmacy professionals to be able to navigate and this project will allow them to gain confidence, promote the pharmacy profession within schools and their local communities, and contribute to the ‘UK five-year national action plan for AMR 2019 to 2024‘.
As ambassadors, trainee pharmacists will be developing their skills by:
- Delivering education lessons and activities at local schools and community groups;
- Encouraging local schools and community groups to include a newsletter item on AMR;
- Providing information about the pharmacy profession to children and young people;
- Collecting and analysing data to evaluate the public health campaign outreach programme.
They will receive a UKHSA toolkit containing useful resources to assist them in delivering their project goals and will be supported by the Boots learning and development team within their region. This project also offers the trainee pharmacists plenty of opportunities to provide evidence for several of the General Pharmaceutical Council’s interim learning outcomes. This is essential in demonstrating progression throughout their training year and preparing for life as a qualified pharmacist.
UKHSA and Boots UK are excited to see the projects developing and are anticipating the positive impact it will have on promoting AMS and tackling AMR. The trainee pharmacists have been completing their antibiotic guardian and AMR training during ‘World Antimicrobial Awareness Week’, with plans to go out into their local communities in early 2023. The collaborative approach will also be evaluated throughout; feedback will be collected from the trainees, participants and the schools providing necessary insight into the overall effectiveness of the project and evidence to recommend adopting it on a larger scale. Other trainees and pharmacists are welcome to use the resources developed and they can access them here.
This is an example of a pharmacy-led AMR project happening right now across the UK. World Antimicrobial Awareness Week serves as an annual reminder to healthcare professionals to renew the conversation around AMR and AMS and share their examples of good practice via different platforms. The goal is to reach as many people as possible to spread the message and make a difference in the fight against AMR.
Tanya Miah, Jordan Charlesworth, Tracey Thornley, Kirti Solanki, Richard Dunne, Diane Ashiru-Oredope