Survey reveals alarming UTI trial complications

31 Mar 2022

Image of woman in pain from UTI


A new survey has found approximately one in five of doctors have treated patients for serious complications that were either missed or misdiagnosed under the Queensland Government’s urinary tract infection (UTI) pharmacist prescribing trial.

The survey of more than 1,300 Queensland doctors found complications ranging from antibiotic allergies to ectopic pregnancies to cervical cancer.

“These figures are shocking, and show the urgent need for the government to immediately halt this trial given the risks to patient safety and absence of any true evaluation of health outcomes,” AMA Queensland President Professor Chris Perry said.

“This is not a comment on our pharmacist colleagues who we value as a key part of community health care. It is an indictment on a trial that most of them do not want to be part of.

“According to the Pharmacy Guild’s own figures, fewer than 1,900 of the State’s 7,000 pharmacists have trained to take part in this UTI trial, and we have no idea how many have actually participated.

“The only publicly released evaluation results are that 6,300 women have accessed the service.

“But there is no mechanism for women who participated in this trial to report any adverse effects, or for their GPs and other doctors to provide feedback on poor patient health outcomes.

“The Guild has stated that patients with adverse outcomes can complain to the Health Quality and Complaints Commission by calling (07) 3120 5999. This number appears to have been disconnected.

“We have read in the media there was no budget for a proper evaluation of the UTI trial and I cannot understand how the Government can conduct a health trial with no way to track patient outcomes. It is a blatant disregard for patient health,’’ Prof Perry said.

Other serious complications doctors reported in the survey include missed diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancies, menopause, pre-cancerous conditions, and delayed treatment leading to kidney infections.

“Women were given the wrong antibiotics, sometimes ones that they were allergic to or had resistance to. Sometimes they were given several rounds of antibiotics without being offered further testing,” Prof Perry said.

“One woman actually had a ruptured ovarian cyst, another had a prolapse. None were offered a basic urine test before being prescribed antibiotics.

“No wonder our members want this UTI trial stopped immediately, and overwhelmingly oppose the broader North Queensland pharmacy prescribing pilot that is based on the alleged success of this flawed and dangerous UTI trial.”

The proposed North Queensland pharmacy trial would allow pharmacists in 37 local government areas from Mackay to the north and the west to diagnose and prescribe for 23 serious conditions without any medical supervision.

More than 1,300 doctors responded to the AMA Queensland survey conducted between 18 and 28 March. In all, 96 per cent of respondents believe the North Queensland pharmacy trial presents serious risks to patient safety.

Published: 31 Mar 2022