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NHS ENGLAND: New guidance to improve services and lives for people living with bladder and bowel problems

NHS England has today published new guidance to help improve the care and experience of children and adults with continence issues.

Problems with the bladder affect more than 14 million people in the UK and about 6.5 million have bowel problems. In addition, 900,000 children and young people reportedly suffer from bladder and bowel dysfunction2.

Continence is sometimes debilitating, often embarrassing and it can be a life-changing problem. There are a myriad of reasons and conditions that can affect how someone goes to the toilet, but quite a bit of variation in what people can expect when they visit a health professional for help.

The new guidance brings together the most up-to-date evidence based resources and research to support commissioners and providers of health services, which have the ability to make real and lasting changes to raise standards of care for continence. It encourages much greater collaboration between health and social care, working in partnership with the third sector, as set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Increased preventative services, good quality, easily available information and advice, as well as integrated health and social care could have a significant impact on the numbers of children and adults suffering with continence issues and the severity of their health and social problems.

Two important areas of work include the need to develop the workforce of health professionals, so they are more informed and educated about continence issues, and robustly measuring people’s health outcomes to make sure services continue to provide the best care possible.

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “Millions of people are affected by continence problems, but it is an issue that many are still too embarrassed to talk about. This means that too many people are suffering in silence and not receiving the care and support they need. ”

“This new guidance will provide the health and care system with a clear framework to help support the improvement of services, ensuring the best and most appropriate care is provided.

“We hope that the guidance will reassure people experiencing this often distressing problem that it’s not something they need to remain silent about.”

Dr Danielle Harari, Consultant Physician and Continence Lead at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said:  “This new guidance offers insights and practical support for anyone concerned with continence. The reality is that bladder and bowel continence needs can affect anyone at any age. It can reduce a person’s enjoyment of life, ability to live an independent life, reduce education and work opportunities and lead to further medical complications. A minimum high standard of care should be provided by professionals and expected by people.”

Sarah Elliott, Chief Nurse, NHS England (South), said: “One of the most rewarding aspects of developing the guidance has been listening and responding to people using continence services and giving them the opportunity to rebalance power so people can have a greater role in the assessment and management of their continence condition. Now is the opportunity to put into effect the best care and to guide people to the help they need to manage their bladder and bowel problems.”

Source: NHS England

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