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NHS set to save billions by investing in better incontinence treatment


THE NHS will start buying more expensive incontinence products for patients in a bid to save more money in the long run.

New guidance will be issued to all NHS Trusts later this year, which, for the first time, will state that patient experience and outcomes must be considered ahead of cost.


Credit: Supplied

The change comes after an 18-month campaign by hygiene and health company Essity, which found that using better incontinence pads could save the health service £ 520 million over a year.

A pilot scheme in NHS Community Trust care homes discovered that, despite the higher upfront cost, better-quality and more appropriate products save money in the long run.

The study found the average patient wearing the current product offering was likely to experience up to 2.5 leaks a day, needing staff time to change, and required six pads per day — a total cost of £15.33.

By comparison, just four of the more expensive pads were needed, and residents using them only had an average of 0.5 leaks per day, at a cost of £6.68.

Read more on incontinence

It also recorded a 75 per cent reduction in leakages requiring bedding or clothing to be washed and an 18 per cent increase in patients being able to self-toilet.

They also found resources are freed up as the demand for healthcare staff is reduced.

The ‘humble’ pad’s huge impact

The campaign was driven by Essity in the UK, which has met with and presented to multiple MPs, who, upon seeing the evidence, have subsequently supported the call for change.

The policy change was announced by House of Lords member Lord Philip Hunt, who has been a passionate advocate for Essity’s proposal for value-based procurement (VBP) since meeting with company members in 2023.

In announcing the change of policy, Lord Hunt said: “Who would have thought that the humble absorbent continence pad could have such an impact, so quickly, on something as important as NHS procurement policy and practice?

“It shows what can be delivered when a campaign for change is built upon irrefutable evidence that a change will be a win-win for patients, for carers and for NHS and social care providers alike, particularly when it is taken forward in a constructive, cross-party campaign.”

While the change in policy will become guidance for NHS Trusts from this autumn, it will become a mandatory requirement during the procurement process from autumn 2025.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence is a common condition and happens because of problems with the muscles and nerves that help the bladder hold or release urine.

You may leak urine when you cough or sneeze.

Or you may have a sudden urge to go but can’t get to the bathroom in time.

What are the different kinds of urinary incontinence?

There are five basic types:

  1. Stress incontinence causes you to leak urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh, lift heavy objects, exercise, or do other things that put pressure on your bladder
  2. Urge incontinencealso known as overactive bladder (OAB), is when you leak urine after feeling a sudden, strong urge to go
  3. You may have OAB if you have to go eight or more times a day and more than once at night. Or you may feel the urge to go when you touch or hear running water. There’s also a dry form of OAB: You get the urge to go even if your bladder is empty
  4. Mixed incontinence is when you have stress and urge incontinence at the same time. This is more common in women.
  5. Overflow incontinence, which is more common in men, is when you are not able to empty your bladder completely, so you may leak urine once your bladder is full
  6. Functional incontinence happens when a medical condition, like arthritis, keeps you from getting to the bathroom in time

Source: WedMD

Karen McNamara, business director for Essity’s Health and Medical division in the UK, said: “This is wonderful news for our NHS.

“Finally, patients can look forward to a better quality of care no matter their illness or condition.

“Put simply, better quality medical products are more reliable; you need fewer of them, and as a result, the associated costs of care are reduced.

“With poorer-quality incontinence products, patients experienced more leaks and had to be changed more regularly, which not only impacts the dignity of the patient but also requires a healthcare professional, who needs disposable gloves and an apron for each change.

“Then linen has to be washed more regularly and very quickly, and the associated costs add up.

“We have been able to demonstrate how better-quality incontinence care products not only improve the lives of patients and the healthcare professionals that care for them but save the NHS money as well.

“This change in policy is a huge win for patients and for the NHS.”

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