Running an antibiotic amnesty campaign

A beginners' guide

  1. Identify your key stakeholders - who?
  2. Engage with your key stakeholders - why?
  3. Decide your campaign and raise awareness of it - how and what?
  4. Record the impact, review and revise plans for subsequent campaigns with feedback - so what?

1. Identify your key stakeholders - who?

Who needs to be involved to make the campaign a success? 

Decide on the setting of your amnesty campaign – is it through community pharmacies, veterinary surgeries, universities or somewhere else? 

Here are some examples from previous and current campaigns:

Community pharmacy
  • Liaise with chairs of Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPCs) – they’re a vital link to community pharmacies and you’ll need their support to publicise the campaign and make it successful
  • Contact your local NHS organisation - CCGs (England), Health Board (Scotland), or local Health Boards (Wales)
  • Contact your local NHS England Pharmacy Advisor - Depending on the geographic footprint of your planned campaign, they’ll be in regular contact with the chairs of the LPCs in that area.

Veterinary surgeries

Most veterinary surgeries are part of larger companies with a regional or national footprint, and the RCVS Practice Standards scheme mandates that member practices encourage medicines returns. 

Find out who the antimicrobial stewardship or environmental sustainability lead is for the larger parent organisation and get in touch with your ideas. The veterinary profession is very aware of the threat of AMR and will probably be keen to support the campaign. Similarly to community pharmacies, veterinary surgeries are required to accept veterinary medicine returns from clients and pet owners and have the facilities to dispose of them safely. 

You can find your local veterinary surgery on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, website.

Linnaeus Group veterinary practices in the Midlands are participating in the amnesty for 2022 and you can find your nearest practice on the Linnaeus veterinary group's website.

Local universities
  • Engage with students and staff population at universities, an amnesty campaign will link in well with wider activities being undertaken at the university for World Antibiotic Awareness Week
  • If there’s an on-site community pharmacy or one nearby get in touch with them ahead of the campaign. Get them involved and ensure they know that they might be receiving increased returned antibiotics from staff or students
  • If there are plans to collect the antibiotics on campus, then risk assessments for this will need to be completed and consider the consequences of how the medicines will be stored and transported for safe disposal. Risk assessments should also consider the possibility of controlled drugs and illicit medicines being returned, in addition to antibiotics.

2. Engage with your key stakeholders - why?

Why should they get involved? Why is it relevant to them, and how can they help? . Consider producing a short briefing guide for staff/volunteers who will be supporting the amnesty to ensure accurate and consistent messaging.

3. Decide your campaign and raise awareness - how and what?

How will the campaign be run? What do the stakeholders need to do? How can you promote the campaign to the public, patients and/or companion animal owners?

Social media 
  • For example, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Nextdoor are convenient ways of reaching large audiences 
  • Use official social media channels of NHS organisations and other participants to send out the key messages for your campaign, these can be retweeted by individuals as appropriate
  • Key hashtags to use on Twitter are #AntibioticAmnesty and #WAAW2022
Press releases 
  • Consider crafting a press release for local/national media outlets
  • Linking the risk of AMR with the environmental impact of unsafe medicines disposal is a powerful message which is likely to resonate at the current time 
  • A press release is a great way to promote positive messages about the role that healthcare professionals and other stakeholders can play in their local community.
  • Consider inviting the press to come to a location where the amnesty is being run for a photo opportunity
Posters in community pharmacies, GP surgeries, dental surgeries, veterinary practices
  • Download and put up posters in healthcare settings - see Antibiotic Guardian website and  GOV.UK website for Antibiotic awareness: posters and leaflets
  • Use TV screens in healthcare settings or veterinary practices.
Online promotion
  • Create web banners for websites.
Political support
  • Consider writing to your local MP to highlight your campaign and raise awareness of the threat of AMR
  • You might wish to invite them to participate in the campaign and visit a participating location to meet the healthcare professionals/university students.
  • You can find the name and contact details of your local MP on the UK Parliament website.
Word of mouth
  • Have conversations with patients, public, talks in schools, colleges and universities, awareness stands during WAAW.

4. Record the impact, promote your work and plan for the next campaign - so what?

Think about measuring the impact of your campaign – can you gather any data to show it was successful? How could you capture this data? 

Below is an example from a previous campaign run through community pharmacies:

  • Consider asking community pharmacy teams to record the number of packs (full or part-packs) handed in to the pharmacy during the campaign and capture the data using PharmOutcomes
  • You could collect data on the numbers of patients/public who the pharmacy team spoke to about the amnesty – e.g. use a simple tally sheet in the pharmacy and enter the data onto PharmOutcomes at the end of the campaign.

Social media - likes, retweets, impressions can all be collated and presented in any final evaluation of the success of the amnesty campaign.

Once you have gathered whatever evidence you have about the impact/success or otherwise of the campaign, it’s time to share this with the wider world! Consider sharing your ideas, approach and results as a case study on the RPS website, a poster at a conference, in presentations and anywhere else you can think of. Let others know what worked well and what needs improving, so they can build on your work.

For further information see our Antibiotic Amnesty page.

We're always fighting antimicrobial resistance - find out more on our campaign page for Antimicrobial Resistance and Stewardship.