UTI prevention and awareness campaign

The NHS and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are raising awareness of urinary tract infections (UTIs), as new data shows they have led to more than 800,000 admissions to hospitals across the country over the past five years.

While UTIs are a year-round concern, ahead of what is expected to be another busy winter in the NHS, clinical leaders are reminding people – particularly those aged 65 and older, and carers – of the steps they can take to reduce their risk of getting a harmful infection.

Some of the symptoms of UTI include 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, blood in the pee, and for older people can include changes in behaviour such as acting agitated or confused.

A range of resources, including posters, have been developed for local NHS areas to share with all their services, including GP practices. They will also be shared with charities, royal colleges, care homes, and other relevant groups in the health and care sector to ensure as many older people and their carers have access to the information as possible.

The campaign also 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.

Older adults are more prone to UTIs – making up almost three fifths of admissions for UTIs over the past five years.

New data, published today, 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.

Last year (2022/23), of the 147,285 admissions with a primary diagnosis of UTI, 56% (82,392) were people over 65 years old, with the highest number in the 80-84 age group (17,280 admissions).

Additionally, UTIs are one of the leading causes of life-threatening E. coli bloodstream infections in England, and are 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 a common type of antibiotic used in treatment.

If left unmanaged UTIs can lead to severe infection, sepsis, and in the most serious cases death.

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.”

A new toolkit has been developed to support UTI prevention and awareness, particularly for older adults (65+) and carers.