Bladder & Bowel Community on BBC Woman’s Hour

Friday 29th May 2020

Jo Umbers - Bladder & Bowel CommunityDirector Joanne Umbers represents the Community in the discussion around public toilets


As lockdown slowly starts to lift, the issue around public toilets and their availability is a key issue to so many.  When Bladder & Bowel Community were invited to be part of the discussion around public toilets, it was Director Jo Umbers who took the opportunity to represent all our interests alongside Raymond Martin from the British Toilet Association.

Did you know? There are 50% fewer toilets now, than a decade ago. 

There has been growing concern on the topic of public toilets, and particularly for those with bladder or bowel issues, with Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey noting that they’d had a lot of emails on this subject. With incontinence being something that women seem to struggle more with than men, it’s no wonder that there are so many out there, wondering how they’ll visit The Ladies’ when they need to.

The crux of the matter is, that some people are feeling like a prisoner in their own home.  And lacking the confidence in local amenities, particularly public toilets, to be able to carry out simple tasks such as food shopping.

Bladder and Bowel Community member, Eliza (@disabledeliza) explains how the lack of toilet facilities has affected her… 

“Being a young woman and having stomach and bladder issues is tiring as it is, along with the physical symptoms of pain, discomfort, tiredness etc, it also comes with added stress of finding the next toilet, will I be able to find it on time?  

Covid has made that much worse, all the toilets are shut meaning even something as simple as getting my shopping has become inaccessible for me. I usually go to the toilet 15-20 times a day so I often need to go at least once when I am out getting my shopping but I can’t. It has pretty much meant I am now housebound. I have recently been furloughed. It has made life more stressful.”

Bladder & Bowel Community are committed to helping get the message out:

Public toilets need to become available, but they need to be clean, monitored, and safe amidst the ongoing pandemic of Coronavirus.

Jo Umbers outlined the issue as being “all about confidence.  We don’t want people to feel like a prisoner in their own home.  And with 60 thousand pubs now shut, people can’t just nip in anywhere”  

It was of course cuts to local council funding that led to so many toilets closing in the first place. And for so many with ongoing health issues who are shielding, and wanting to go out, the issue remains that they are simply unable to plan around the many obstacles they would normally face, or are just too frightened of the consequences.

The problem for so many is that the availability of toilets is a necessity, not a convenience.  

We need local councils and retail stores to hear and understand this message, and start to take action towards opening up public toilets in a safe and controlled way.

Raymond Martin from the British Toilet Association commented.  “This is a health issue. The Government should step in.  And if we need to pay for toilets, they need to be clean”.

Jo Umbers summed it up for Bladder & Bowel Community:  

“It’s stopping people from going out.  People need to have a plan. This is what we’re hearing from the community.  But if more businesses understand the issue, and educate their staff, people with bladder and bowel issues can use the Just Can’t Wait Card with confidence.”

We’re campaigning to get the message out as far and wide as possible.

Get your FREE Just Can’t Wait Card here.

Get involved in the discussion

You can follow the conversation on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and access our Closed Facebook Group for peer support and safe discussion.




Missed Woman’s Hour? Catch the full episode on BBC Radio 4, with special thanks to Jane Garvey and the Woman’s Hour team.