Antibiotics – Out of Hours Information

With bacteria gaining more resistance to the antibiotics we commonly prescribe, some doctors are becoming more wary of prescribing them when other options for treatment may be available. Recent research has shown that although we are aware of increasing resistance, prescriptions of antibiotics are also at an all-time high.

More recently again, reports have been made that have suggested that taking too many antibiotics – including a normal prescription of a full course – could be adding to the problem of antibiotic resistance. The current belief is that completing a full course of antibiotics would prevent an infection returning, reducing the chances of the bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment. The new research is not definitive, however, and so the advice remains that to complete a course of antibiotics is the best course of action.

As a result of increasing resistance, antibiotics are no longer given as routinely to treat infections as they used to be. The more that antibiotics are used to treat minor infections, or in an attempt to treat a viral infection, the higher the risk of increased resistance. Taking antibiotics when you do not need them encourages the bacteria within your body to become resistant.

With all this attention on the use of antibiotics, it is important to consider when you need to use this form of treatment.

When Do You Need Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and not viral infections, such as cold or flu. The medication will stop bacteria reproducing and spreading, but they are not always the most appropriate form of treatment.

Your doctor is likely to prescribe antibiotics when the infection is unlikely to clear up with the use of any other medication or home treatments. They may also decide to prescribe an antibiotic if:

  • There is a risk of the bacteria spreading, particularly to vulnerable people and children
  • There is a risk of more serious complications
  • The infection is likely to take a long time to clear

For those who are more prone to serious infection, antibiotics can also be given as a precaution. Some groups are more prone to bacterial infections, including: over-75s; people with heart failure; insulin-dependent diabetes sufferers; people with a weakened immune system from an underlying condition or treatment such as chemotherapy.

Bacterial Versus Viral Infections – How to Tell the Difference

There is no easy way to tell the difference between a bacterial and a viral infection, but your doctor will be able to advise you. Generally speaking, a fever will accompany a bacterial infection, but it can also accompany flu which cannot be treated with antibiotics as it is viral. If you are producing yellow or green mucus, this can also indicate a bacterial infection, as can white spots on the throat.

In some cases however, a prolonged viral infection can lead to complications which will require antibiotic treatment. You can speak to your GP, or call NHS 111 at any point during your illness if you are concerned and feel you may need antibiotic treatment.

Out of Hours Services

If your symptoms have worsened outside of working hours, you can contact your local Out of Hours Service by calling NHS Direct on 111. Doctors working with the Out of Hours Service will be able to determine whether antibiotics will be the best form of treatment for your illness. Local Out of Hours Services can be found at:

  • Brants Bridge Primary Care Centre (PCC), Royal Berkshire Bracknell Clinic
  • Herschel Medical Centre PCC, Slough
  • King Edward VII PVV, Berkshire
  • St Marks Hospital PCC, Maidenhead
  • St Marks Hospital Urgent Care Centre (UCC), Maidenhead

Appointments for all of these clinics can be obtained by dialling 111. NHS Direct is for use during non-urgent situations where you require advice on how best to deal with an illness or injury. In the case of an emergency, always dial 999.