In our latest blog we welcome Fergus Allerton who shares details about his involvement in the Antibiotic Guardian Schools Ambassador programme developed by the English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance (ESPAUR). During 2023 ESPAUR worked with colleagues in the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service in the West Midlands, to expand its school ambassador scheme to veterinary professionals and Fergus helped develop some of the new content for this.

Fergus Allerton explains more:

The Antibiotic Guardian team at ESPAUR have been running the Antibiotic Guardian Schools Ambassador programme for several years and it represents a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness among children. I was delighted to be invited to contribute to the programme and integrate a veterinary angle to help educate children about AMR. The programme itself aims to connect public health, healthcare workers, scientists, vets and vet nurses with local schools, in order to share learning on infection prevention, hand hygiene and AMR. ESPAUR developed a toolkit of lesson planning resources on important public health topics; microbes, hygiene, infection prevention and antibiotics for schools to use. The schools programme toolkit pack can be found here. The veterinary profession was able to feed into this as children love all things animal-related! We also used it as a great vehicle to talk about the Antibiotic Amnesty campaign which was running during November 2023.

The ambassadors, which spanned healthcare professionals, scientists and veterinary professionals were actively encouraged to contact local schools and provide a teaching session using the toolkit resources between November and February depending on their and the school’s availability. If time was limited though, ambassadors could simply share the toolkit with schools for their teachers to provide a session.

In the presentation we were able to discuss case studies of pets that had come to the vets and talk to children about when it is and isn’t appropriate to prescribe antibiotics. As a nation of pet lovers, millions of families provide loving homes for a range of companion animals and it is important that everyone in the family has an awareness of the responsible use of medicines. This may mean that sometimes, antibiotics are not the right thing to help a pet get better. It is vital to trust vets to make the right recommendations.

The overall aim of the programme is about driving a focus on AMR and reaching as many school-aged children as possible, which is so important as everyone has a role to play in tackling AMR and protecting the efficacy of antibiotics.

I was lucky enough to deliver a session at a local primary school in November. The reception I received was great, with an audience of attentive listeners and eager volunteers –  vastly different to speaking to adults! Hopefully, with greater awareness these children will become antibiotic guardians themselves in the future. Children are a driving force towards encouraging greater environmental sustainability. This is another area where their energy and desire to protect the world around them can benefit us all.