The NHS and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have launched an awareness campaign for urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Recent data has shown that UTIs have led to more than 800,000 admissions to hospitals across the country over the past five years.
The data shows there were over 1.8 million hospital admissions involving UTIs between 2018-19 and 2022-23 – the majority of which involved patients aged 65 and older. This includes admissions because of UTIs as well as those for another reason where the patient also had a UTI.
While UTIs occur all year, the campaign has launched ahead of what is expected to be a busy winter for the NHS.
The campaign is particularly aimed at those aged 65 an older and carers and points out steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of a UTI.
Resources, including posters have been developed for local NHS services to share across their services. Charities, care homes and other relevant groups will also be able to access them.
The campaign points out the symptoms of a UTI including needing to pee more frequently or urgently than usual, pain or a burning sensation when peeing, new pain in the lower tummy, kidney pain or pain in the lower back and blood in the pee. The campaign highlights the importance of keeping hydrated by regularly drinking enough fluids, going to the toilet as soon as possible when you need to, and washing or showering regularly to make sure the genital area is kept clean and dry.
UTIs are one of the leading causes of E. coli bloodstream infections in England, and are a major contributor to antibiotic resistant infections in this country.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “As we get closer to what is likely to be another challenging winter in the health service, it is a good opportunity to remind people of the range of services available in the NHS and the best way to get the right care for their needs, which can help avoid unnecessary trips to A&E – these include using NHS 111, speaking to a pharmacist or GP, or visiting an urgent care walk-in centre.
“And this joint campaign with UKHSA is a timely reminder for older people and carers of the importance of keeping hydrated year-round – not just during warmer months – going to the toilet when you need to, and regular washing, which can all help avoid preventable infections like UTIs, that if left untreated can become serious infections and can lead to admission to hospital.
“So if you or someone you care for has any symptoms like pain when peeing, a high temperature, lower tummy pain, or changes in behaviour, please seek advice as soon as possible from your GP, a walk-in centre, community pharmacist, or by calling NHS 111, as the quicker a UTI is detected, the faster and easier it is to treat.”
Dr Colin Brown, deputy director for antimicrobial resistance at UKHSA, said: “Urinary Tract Infections are incredibly common and while most people can manage their infection at home with painkillers and plenty of fluids, some do go on to develop much more serious complications, such as kidney or bloodstream infections that need hospital treatment.
“These more serious consequences are more common in people over the age of 65 so we are reminding this group in particular to be aware of the ways they can help reduce their risk of getting poorly. Drinking enough fluids is so important, as well as avoiding holding onto pee. Regular washing and keeping dry can also help reduce the risk of infections.”