The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has encouraged local NHS organisations to set up an ‘antibiotic amnesty’ to ask people to return their unwanted antibiotics for safe disposal.

This would remove them from circulation and prevent them from being disposed of unsafely - which could contaminate the environment and increase the spread of resistance genes among bacteria, putting human and animal health at risk.

The antibiotic amnesty toolkit, produced by the RPS, suggests that NHS organisations could work with community pharmacies, veterinary surgeries, and universities to collect unused antibiotics.

The RPS said that community pharmacies based on university campuses should be involved in the campaign and informed that they might be receiving increased returned antibiotics from staff or students.

RPS president Professor Claire Anderson said that the RPS is ‘committed to tackling antimicrobial resistance and improving antimicrobial stewardship in partnership with providers across the healthcare system’.

She added: ‘Returning antibiotics that are out of date or no longer required for safe disposal is an important way to reduce antimicrobial resistance. That’s why we’re supporting providers with a resource to set up an “antibiotic amnesty” when suitable in co-ordination with local teams.’

The toolkit also outlines guidance on promoting the campaign on social media, in local press, by engaging local MPs and the public, and through posters in community pharmacies, GP surgeries, dental surgeries, veterinary practices. Antibiotic awareness posters and leaflets for use can be downloaded from the Antibiotic Guardian website and GOV.UK website.

The misuse of antibiotics hit the headlines recently when former health secretary Thérèse Coffey admitted to sharing leftover antibiotics with friends and family.

The comments were leaked at the same time as plans to increase pharmacist prescribing of antibiotics, which led to pharmacists defending the profession’s competency and anti-microbial stewardship.

New health and social care secretary Steve Barclay is yet to set out his plans for community pharmacy.