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International Primary Care Association

Clinical Focus Primary Care


Somatic symptom disorders (SSD’s) are a complex set of psychological disorders in which patients experience physical symptoms that cannot be traced to a physical cause. Examples of SSD’s include illness anxiety disorder, conversion disorder, psychological factors affecting other medical conditions, factitious disorder, other specified somatic and related disorder and unspecified somatic symptom and related disorder. The diagnosis of SSD’s follows a thorough medical workup and/or psychiatric evaluation. Treatments should centre on a biopsychosocial approach and employ the appropriate medical, psychological and psychosocial interventions. 


Severe symptoms while taking statins are distressing not only for the patients suffering them but also for the doctors wanting to prevent heart attacks and strokes. In this article, we discuss how symptoms during statin treatment statins can be commonly reported and yet be no more common on real statins than placebo in patients participating in randomised controlled trials. If a patient (and their doctor) wants to know the true symptomatic effect of statins there is now a way to achieve this. We describe how an individual can use a prepared set of statin, placebo and tablet free periods to separate the three components of side effects potentially attributable to statins: ever-present background symptoms, nocebo effect, and pharmacological sideeffects. This approach may enable general practitioners to provide low cost, scientifically secure, personalised medicine.


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the commonest infections encountered in general practice .One in three women will have a UTI by the age of 24 years and one in two will be treated for a symptomatic UTI in their life time.

The antimicrobial management of these infections is so crucial in determining not only individual outcomes of adults with UTIs but also whether resistant organisms will emerge or not and, therefore be more difficult to treat in subsequent infections. Furthermore, there is a wider dimension of potential spread of such resistant organisms whether in the community or hospital setting. Indeed these resistant, including multi-antimicrobial resistant, organisms are common causes of healthcare associated infections not only in the form of UTIs but as other types of infections. As the title suggests clinicians need to ensure that the use of antimicrobials is mindful of the collateral damage incurred and harm to patients in general practice and the hospital setting.

There are different types of UTIs and therefore the way they are managed vary. The good practice approach is to rely heavily on the clinical side and make a working diagnosis and then decide whether a urine sample needs to be obtained for dipstick testing, when appropriate, followed by culture and sensitivity.

Traditionally the cut-off diagnosis of a UTI was the presence of significant growth of bacteria in urine i.e. more than 100,000 bacteria per ml of urine, and this was the gold standard whether to treat or not. The current practice has changed in terms of not necessarily treating a significant bacteriuria unless the symptoms are significant enough and causing suffering to the patient. However, in the absence of symptoms treatment would still be warranted if there is a urological abnormality, renal impairment, or immunosuppression.

In pregnancy asymptomatic bacteriuria should be treated because of the 20-40% risk of progressing towards a UTI subsequently. In recurrent UTIs treatment is the same as other UTIs except that referral should be considered and actions taken to prevent further infections including the use of least broad-spectrum long-term antimicrobial prophylaxis. With indwelling catheters, the risk of UTIs is higher and best management is to avoid them when possible or resort to self-catheterisation. Once in place, a gold standard aseptic technique should be followed. Antimicrobials should only be used in the presence of clinical symptoms, renal abnormality or immunosuppression. Change of catheter should also be considered when in place longer than seven days and in the presence of a genuine UTI and not only bacteriuria.

It is imperative that the Microbiology request form is fully completed in addition to checking for previous microbiology culture results and their sensitivity patterns as this will guide to more appropriate antimicrobial prescribing. Equally important is looking for previous colonization or infection with an alert organism such as MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), ESBL (Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase) or C.diff. This will guide the choice of an antimicrobial with the least collateral damaging effect.

Therefore, the most appropriate antimicrobials to be used are those with the least broad-spectrum activity. The choice of antimicrobials should also be based on current or recent microbiological evidence including sensitivity to infective agents and duration should usually be short i.e. 3 days and only longer when indicated.

The Hippocratic Corpus is reiterated: “First do no harm”.

A tumultuous year so far for UK generally and the NHS in particular. Against most of the predictions the EU referendum was a win for the exit camp. This will have major effects on healthcare delivery, both directly and indirectly.  


Antibiotics were one of the most important discoveries last century. As with all drugs, however, they are associated with adverse effects. This article reviews how inappropriate antibiotic prescribing not only fails to cure an infected patient; it may encourage overgrowth of resistant pathogens that ultimately threaten future management of sepsis.


This review aims to cover the epidemiology, pathophysiology, symptoms/signs and management options (including when to refer) of common hand conditions presenting to primary care. These include: triggering; ganglions; base of thumb arthritis; carpal tunnel syndrome; Dupuytren’s disease and De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.


Heart failure (HF) is predominantly a disease of the elderly. The mainstay of treatment is pharmacological, although the scope of device therapy has widened in recent years. Standard heart failure therapy has been shown to improve prognosis and symptoms in the elderly, although under-treatment of this group remains a challenge. However, HF remains a disease with a poor prognosis, and end of life care planning should be considered early in the patient pathway. Key to management is a multidisciplinary approach, with both specialist and generalist input that coordinates care across primary and secondary settings.


The aetiology of Parkinson’s Disease is discussed and the differential diagnosis and specific diagnostic criteria. The non motor symptoms of PD are highlighted and how to manage them.


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