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Keep Antibiotics Working


Public Health England (PHE) first launched the 'Keep Antibiotics Working' national campaign in October 2017 across England. This was to support the government’s efforts to reduce inappropriate prescriptions for antibiotics by raising awareness of the issue of antimicrobial resistance and reducing demand from the public. 

In 2019 the campaign was relaunched for the second time on 5 November 2019. In addition to the already newly released pharmacy resources, updated and new resources were available mid-October.


Policy objective

antibiotic resistance is a complex problem – overuse and misuse of antibiotics is creating antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria against which none of our current antibiotics work. The race is on to develop new antibiotics to kill these resistant strains but, if we don’t win that race, we could face a future in which antibiotics no longer work. That could mean a return to the pre-antibiotic age, where people with compromised immune systems may not recover from common infections and deaths in childbirth, or from infected wounds, or pneumonia were commonplace.

The inappropriate use of antibiotics drives antimicrobial resistance and means antibiotics may become less likely to work in the future. The campaign supported the government’s ambition to halve inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics in the UK by 2020.


Aim, key message and evaluation

The public have little understanding of the concept of antibiotic resistance and what it means for them. Research shows that inappropriate prescribing is, in part, due to patients expecting or demanding antibiotics, without understanding whether that they may not be effective for their illness. The focus of this campaign was on tackling this lack of understanding and thereby reducing patient pressure for antibiotics.

The campaigns key aims are:

  • Alert and inform the public to the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in a way that  they understand in a manner which they understand and increase recognition of personal risk of inappropriate usage
  • Reduce public expectation for antibiotics by increasing understanding amongst patients about why they might not be given antibiotics, so reducing demand
  • Support healthcare professional (HCP) change by boosting support for alternatives to prescription

The messaging for the national campaign aims to move patients to a better understanding that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them means they are less likely to work for you in the future and to trust their doctors’ advice regarding the best appropriate treatment for them.


Who is the campaign aimed at?

The campaign was aimed at all adults with a particular focus on groups most likely to use antibiotics:

  • Women aged 20-45 who tend to have primary responsibility for family health across SEG groups
  • Older men and women aged 50+, with a focus on those with recurrent conditions and high levels of contact with GPs1


To register your interest and receive campaign information at any time please update your newsletter subscription preferences by going to your campaign newsletter subscriptions to change your topic and subject preferences. Please ensure you sign up to receive updates regarding 'Antimicrobial resistance' in the 'What health subjects do you want to know about?'


1 Define research with 55+, mothers of young children and individuals with risk criteria. Solutions research with mothers aged 11 and under.