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Bye-Bye UTI – community pharmacy scheme which has offered relief to more than 12,000 women across the region has been extended

THOUSANDS more women will receive faster and easier access to advice and treatment for urinary tract infections (UTIs) following a decision to extend a successful NHS community pharmacy pilot programme.

The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) has agreed to fund the pioneering initiative on an ongoing basis, after evaluating the effectiveness of the current pilot scheme.

The programme has already enabled more than 12,000 women aged 16-64, excluding those who are pregnant, to receive over the counter advice and treatment for uncomplicated UTIs from community pharmacists without the need for a GP appointment or prescription - providing convenient and fast access to treatment for patients, whilst also helping to reduce pressure on GP practices.

Dr Neil O’Brien, County Durham GP and executive medical director, North East and North Cumbria ICB, said: "We launched the UTI pilot scheme in June 2022 and it has proved incredibly successful.

"UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections that GPs see in female patients - with over 40 percent of women likely to suffer from one in their lifetime.

"Consequently, they take up a large proportion of time and resources within the healthcare system with more than 75,000 women in the North East and North Cumbria seen by a GP with a UTI in the six months prior to the pilot scheme being launched.

"UTIs can develop quickly, are acutely painful and we know that patients want fast access to rapid relief from symptoms.

"I am extremely pleased that the announcement to fund the UTI pilot scheme on an ongoing basis will continue to allow women to access early and effective treatment for a UTI at their local community pharmacy and help to reduce pressures on GP practices."

435 of the 651 community pharmacies across the North East and North Cumbria are currently signed up to deliver over the counter UTI advice and treatment.

Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Burning or stinging sensation on passing urine
  • Needing to pass urine frequently or urgently
  • Cloudy urine
  • Passing excessive or large quantities of urine

Director of medicines and pharmacy, North East and North Cumbria ICB, Ewan Maule, who led the UTI pilot project, said: "We worked extremely closely with local pharmacies, representative pharmaceutical bodies, NHS England and other stakeholders to ensure that our UTI pilot delivered positive results for women across the region.

"Community pharmacists are highly trained health professionals and are well placed within local communities to offer an ‘open door’ to the NHS for health advice without the need for an appointment.

"Utilising them to improve access to UTI advice and treatment not only provides a more convenient service for patients, but also significantly reduces the demand on general practice and limits the number of unnecessary visits to emergency departments and other health care providers.

"It has been extremely encouraging to see such large numbers of women coming forward and the ongoing funding of the scheme demonstrates just what can be achieved when we work together in the interests of improving healthcare for our patients and the wider healthcare system."

The pilot also aimed to reduce antibiotic prescribing across the ICB with the North East and North Cumbria being the sixth highest prescriber of antibiotics for UTIs in England.

Geraint Morris, chief officer, North of Tyne Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), added: "I'm delighted that the UTI service has been funded on an ongoing basis.

"It is vitally important that we continue to evolve the healthcare services that community pharmacists can provide to their patients and local communities and engaging with local pharmacies to consistently provide these services is critical to achieving this.

"All participating community pharmacists were able to provide advice and treatment, where appropriate, for a UTI without the need for a GP appointment or prescription, an evaluation of the pilot showed us a 47% reduction in antibiotic prescribing, which has helped to reduce the overall impact of antibiotic resistance across our region without impacting on patient care."

Pharmacies participating in the UTI scheme can be found at:  https://www.psne.co.uk/

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