NICE has published new guidance to help healthcare professionals optimise the treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

It says healthcare professionals should ask patients about the severity and regularity of their symptoms before they prescribe antibiotics. This should include asking them about the steps they have taken to manage their illness (such as taking painkillers) and may also include asking them for a urine sample so that this can be tested for infection. The results can then be used to identify which antibiotic will work best.

Dr Tessa Lewis, GP and chair of the managing common infections guidance committee, said: “Urinary tract symptoms are common. Urinary infections can make people feel very uncomfortable and unwell and in some cases may become serious. It is important that we treat these infections with an antibiotic that will work. This new draft guidance from NICE can assist healthcare professionals to do that.”

All UTIs are caused by bacteria. Sometimes the body’s immune system can fight a mild infection alone without medication, but often antibiotics are needed.

Inappropriate and overuse use of antibiotics fuels drug resistance. Antibiotic resistance in UTIs is “common” and the problem is increasing, according to data published by Public Health England.

Professor Mark Baker, director for the centre of guidelines at NICE said: “We recognise that the majority of UTIs will require antibiotic treatment, but we need to be smarter with our use of these medicines.

“Our new guidance will help healthcare professionals to optimise their use of antibiotics. This will help to protect these vital medicines and ensure that no one experiences side effects from a treatment they do not need.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director for AMR and HCAI at Public Health England, said: “Our surveillance shows that more than a third of laboratory-confirmed E.coli UTIs display resistance to key antibiotics.

"We are therefore urging GP practices and hospitals to follow the new guidelines so they can prescribe antibiotics appropriately to their patients.  This will preserve our antibiotics so that they not only save lives today but can continue to save lives tomorrow.”

The consultation on these guidelines closes on 5 June 2018.