Calling anyone who deals with UTIs: you'll no longer need a GP appointment to get medication
Sadly, given how deeply unpleasant UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) are, they're very common. In fact, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, up to 50% of women will experience a UTI at some point, whilst 20–30% will experience recurring UTIs – multiple infections per year – which, we're sure you'll agree, sounds pretty awful. Further still, some even experience what's known as chronic UTIs, meaning their symptoms (which include persistent bladder and pelvic pain as well as frequent urination, to name a few) are ongoing.
It's welcome news then, that pharmacists will soon be able to dispense medication to help with a UTI, without the need for a trip to see the GP first – a move that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said will hopefully ease pressure on the NHS.
Along with being able to provide medication for UTIs over the counter, pharmacists will now also (hopefully) be able to offer patients the contraceptive pill, remedies for ear aches and sore throats, along with some other common conditions, in a bid to claw back more than 15 million appointment slots at doctors' surgeries in the coming two years.
"We will end the 8am rush and expand the services offered by pharmacies, meaning patients can get their medication quickly and easily," Sunak was quoted as saying when announcing the news, however some have cautioned that although this idea sounds nice on paper, staffing shortages and a lack of consultation rooms could see patients "bumped from pillar to post, only to end up back at the GP".
As for chronic UTIs in general, understandably the long list of symptoms that come with having a chronic UTI (CUTIs) can have a drastic impact on sufferer's day-to-day lives, as consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Nitu Bajekal tells us. As well as triggering anxiety about going out, due to the fear of needing to use the bathroom at any moment (another reason why now being able to cut out a doctor's appointment is a welcome relief), Dr Bajekal points out that CUTIs can also result in bed wetting at night, sleep disturbances, gut health issues, recurrent thrush from multiple courses of antibiotics, sexual dysfunction and strained relationships.
Given that chronic UTIs have such an impact on those who suffer with them, campaigners have long worked hard to ensure the NHS recognises the condition and effectively implements proper treatment guidelines. Earlier this year their hard work paid off, as CUTIs were finally recognised by the NHS as an illness with severe impact.
"To actually have an acceptance from NHS Digital that chronic UTIs exist is the most amazing step forward," said Carolyn Andrew, director of Chronic Urinary Tract Infection Campaign (CUTIC). "One of our aims is to gain recognition for the illness, which, until fairly recently, doctors just brushed aside and said it didn't exist."
Andrew went on: "We can now move forward and say, 'as stated on the NHS website, chronic urinary tract infection affects some people'. We have absolute, categoric, black and white proof that it is now accepted as an illness."
As for what you should do if you think you may be suffering with recurrent UTIs, Dr Bajekal stresses the importance of still speaking with your GP. "Highlight your symptoms to your doctor and alert them to the possibility that this may be a chronic UTI," she says, as well as encouraging patients to request referral to a specialised clinic.
On top of that, Dr Bajekal explains there are some at-home remedies you can do to help minimise symptoms, should over-the-counter medication not be an option or preference. At-home chronic UTI tips include eating anti-inflammatory whole foods, such as berries, leafy green vegetables, beans and whole grains as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, that "can help with vaginal health by encouraging healthy gut bacteria."
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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