Launch of PHE’s ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign

Blog post by PHE

Wednesday 25 October 2017

On 23 October Public Health England launched the ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign which aims to help tackle antibiotic resistance.

The campaign highlights that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk of more severe and longer illness. To help ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ the public are urged to always take their doctor or nurse’s advice, and to never save antibiotics for later use or share them with others.

Antibiotic resistance is a major global health issue. In the UK alone it is estimated that every year at least 5,000 deaths result from antibiotics no longer working for some infections. Experts predict that in 30 years’ time antibiotic resistance will kill more people worldwide than cancer and diabetes combined. GPs are often asked to prescribe antibiotics by patients who have limited understanding of the conditions they treat and the threat of antibiotic resistance. The ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign seeks to reduce demand by highlighting the immediate and personal risks of taking antibiotics when people don’t need them and in doing so provide support for health care professionals.

The campaign is aimed at all adults but where possible will target those most likely to use antibiotics; women aged 20-45 who tend to have primary responsibility for family health, as well as older men and women aged 50+, who have recurrent conditions and high levels of contact with GPs. The campaign will run for 8 weeks and will be supported with a new animated TV advert; advertising on radio, outdoor, press and social media; partnerships with local pharmacies, GP surgeries and local authorities; and PR. The campaign has been designed to land an impactful message around personal risk which motivates the audience to change their behaviour without deterring those who do need antibiotics.

The new TV advert features animated antibiotic characters and a catchy song to grab attention; it was a deliberate choice to make the messenger the antibiotics themselves rather than healthcare professionals as it avoided the risk that people thought reducing antibiotic-use was a cost-cutting measure. By buying inventory outside pharmacies and working in partnership with GP surgeries and local councils across England, the campaign aims to interrupt the customer journey when someone is ill, reminding them of the risks of antibiotic resistance when the message is most relevant. In addition GPs will have a specially designed prescription pad which provides a tangible intervention to satisfy patient concerns and help alleviate pressure to prescribe. Click here to watch the TV advert.

The national campaign follows a successful pilot launched earlier in the year in the North West. The North West region was chosen because it is an area with high prescription. Results showed the pilot generated high levels of awareness with research indicating that people in the region were less likely to ask their GP for antibiotics after the campaign. Learnings from the pilot have been used to develop the campaign for national roll-out.

For more information on antibiotics and when they should be used, visit

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