Older people and their carers are being advised on the importance of drinking enough and going to the toilet as soon as they feel the urge in a bid to reduce the risk of urinary tract infection (UTI).
NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have launched a campaign on steps to cut the chances of UTI as well as raising awareness of the symptoms to look out for.
Figures from the past five years show 1.8 million hospital admissions involved UTI and 800,000 where it was the primary diagnosis.
Patients over the age of 65 make up two thirds of those who end up in hospital with a UTI, NHS England said and it was important people know how to reduce the risk ahead of what would be another pressured winter for the health service.
Resources including posters for GP practices and care homes will also highlight the importance of washing or showering daily where possible especially for those who suffer from incontinence.
UKHSA warned that UTIs were also one of the leading causes of life-threatening E coli bloodstream infections in England as well as a major contributor to the burden of antibiotic resistant infections in this country.
A quarter of urine samples analysed in the first half of 2023 had bacteria resistant to common antibiotic treatment, they noted.
The campaign will stress the importance of seeking help early for symptoms such as 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, or blood in the urine.
It also stresses that for older people signs of a UTI can include changes in behaviour such as acting agitated or confused.
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.’
Dr Colin Brown, deputy director for antimicrobial resistance at UKHSA, said while UTIs were incredibly common some people do go on to develop much more serious complications, such as kidney or bloodstream infections.
‘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.’
Earlier this year, as part of the general practice recovery plan, NHS England announced that patients would be able get prescription medicine directly from pharmacists without the need for a GP appointment for seven common conditions including UTIs.