A smartphone app test could save the NHS millions of pounds by helping women find out if they have a urinary tract infection without having to see a doctor.
Women will be offered a Dip UTI test – a standard dipstick urine test used by GPs with a smartphone app that can accurately scan the sample by following the instructions of a virtual nurse.
Once the dipstick has been dipped in urine, it is placed on a colour board which is used as a reference point for the camera to detect colour changes that may indicate a bacterial infection.
Researchers say the home-use kit, developed by Healthy.io, provides lab-quality analysis and is more accurate than a visual read by healthcare professionals.
The NHS England pilot scheme is being trialled in 38 “Pharmacy First” branches across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Samantha Travis, clinical leadership adviser for NHS England in the Midlands, said: “This pilot scheme forms part of a wider project to improve community health care by making greater use of pharmacists’ skills.
“Our extended ‘Pharmacy First’ Scheme – which allows patients to have minor ailments treated by a pharmacist – has been running in selected pharmacies in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire since February 2018.”
The test will allow women to swiftly access treatment without waiting for a doctors appointment.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommends women with UTIs are given antibiotics immediately.
Women who do not test positive will have a follow-up consultation with a pharmacist to discuss treatment or a GP referral.
One in three women develop a UTI before the age of 24, and one in two experience at least one infection in their lifetime.
Suspected UTIs account for up to 3% of all GP visits.
In England alone this could mean around 10.2 million consultations, costing the NHS more than £316 million in GP time.
Pharmacist Sid Dajani and adviser to Healthy.io said: “If only one in 10 women with a UTI was treated in a pharmacy instead of their GP, the NHS would save £28 million a year in England alone and there would be millions more appointments available for more serious or urgent problems.”
East Midlands Academic Health Science Network (EMAHSN) commercial director Tim Robinson said: “Our aim as an organisation is to identify, test and spread innovation in health which improve outcomes and experiences for patients and save the NHS money.
“By supporting this technology-enabled pathway, we hope to provide patients with quicker and easier access to UTI treatment and reduce GP appointments.”