GPs and nurses are being urged to resist patient demands to prescribe antibiotics for colds and flu.
Research by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) shows the majority of GPs and nurses give in to patient requests for antibiotics, even when they know they will have little to no effect.
According to the survey, 97% of patients were found to be successful in their requests for antibiotics.
At a time of growing concern over the increasing resistance to antibiotics, which 70% of respondents acknowledged is a problem that could affect them and their families, a quarter of adults said they believed antibiotics worked on "most coughs and colds" and "expected" them to be prescribed by their GP.
"Although the public recognises resistance as a problem, our findings show that people expect, and are often prescribed, antibiotics for mild illnesses such as coughs, colds and sore throats as well as for flu, which can be more severe, but is still a viral illness," said Dr Cliodna McNulty, the HPA's head of primary care.
"Health professionals need to learn to resist demands from patients for treatments they know have little or no effect on coughs and colds."
The HPA survey also shows one in ten people keep 'leftover' antibiotics for later use.
"Health professionals need to stress to patients that self treatment with leftover antibiotics is not only unsafe but can lead to the emergence of resistance," said Dr McNulty.
"It will always the case that quite a few patients will insist for abx for cough and cold or sore throat. I give them delayed scripts of abx to start after 2 days if no better. Some doctors I know have done the same but will put the later dates on script. Doctors give in to patients' request/demands as they do not want to lose the trust/good relationship with the patients. Moreover many patients will go to OOH/WIC (as abx was not prescribed by their GPs) for abx and they know it is easier to get abx from them. Sometimes time pressure is the reason to rx abx as discussing pro/cons of abx is time consuming" – Anand Kumar Sinha, Walall