NHS website - Can I get incontinence products on the NHS?
You may be able to get incontinence products on the NHS, such as incontinence pads or devices, for example, handheld urinals, but it depends on your local NHS organisation. To qualify for incontinence products, you may need to:
- be assessed (which may involve keeping a diary of your bladder for 3 days) and start a treatment plan
- meet criteria set out by your clinical commissioning group (CCG)
Incontinence is when you unintentionally pass urine or stools (poo) because you can't control your bladder or bowel.
How your continence will be assessed
If you have incontinence, it's important that you're assessed by a healthcare professional. Depending on how severe it is, it may be possible to treat the cause of your incontinence, meaning you won't need incontinence products.
Urinary incontinence may be treated with:
- bladder training – this involves increasing the length of time between feeling the need to urinate and passing urine
- pelvic floor muscle training – exercising weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles is often one of the first treatments recommended
Bowel incontinence is often a symptom of another condition, such as constipation or diarrhoea, so treating the other condition may prevent the incontinence. For example, constipation or diarrhoea can be treated by changing your diet, taking medication or retraining your bowel.
NHS continence services
You can get advice about your condition from:
- an NHS continence service– which is staffed by specialist nurses, sometimes called continence advisers
- your GP – who may refer you to a continence adviser or your local district nurse
You may be able to book an appointment at an NHS continence service without a referral from your GP.
Once you've been assessed, the healthcare professionals treating you will say which incontinence products are available on the NHS. Your local CCG may have criteria that you need to meet – for example, products may only be available for people with severe or long-term incontinence and you may be limited to a certain number of products per day.
If you request more incontinence products, you will be reassessed to check if this is necessary, and if so more products should be offered.
If this doesn't happen, or if you have any concerns, tell the healthcare professionals treating you. You can also seek advice from the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).
NHS continence clinics have specialist teams providing support and medical advice for people with bowel or bladder incontinence. The clinics can be based in a hospital or in the community, such as in a health centre.
You can phone some continence clinics directly to make an appointment but others will require you to be referred by your GP. To find out where your nearest NHS continence service is call your local hospital.
On your first visit, a continence adviser, usually a nurse who specialises in bowel and bladder problems, will assess you and explain your incontinence treatment options.
What if I can't get incontinence products on the NHS?
If you can't get incontinence products on the NHS, you can buy your own. However, you should get medical advice first, to get any treatment you need. Read more information about incontinence products.
The charity Bladder & Bowel UK has independent advice on products that can help manage bladder and bowel problems. For more information on products and to order them:
- call the confidential helpline on 0161 607 8219
- visit the Bladder & Bowel UK website
The International Continence Society has a website for both the public and medical professionals providing advice on product selection and choices.
If adaptations to your home would help with your incontinence, such as handrails near the toilet or a commode, the social care department of your local council may be able to provide these. Read about applying for a needs assessment on GOV.UK.
Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.
- What are pelvic floor exercises?
- When do I have to pay for NHS treatment?
- Urinary incontinence
- Bladder & Bowel Community
- Bowel incontinence
- Care and support: support services
- Department of Health: Good practice in continence services (PDF, 110kb)
- GOV.UK: health and social care assessments
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight loss & management
- Stop smoking
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