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Stigma on incontinence: how we are helping those who suffer

In the UK and Ireland approximately 14 million people suffer from incontinence, so it is a huge issue, but also a very taboo subject and most people don’t come forward when they have a problem. I see patients at Farnham and Frimley Park Hospitals, in nursing homes, care homes and young disability homes. As part of my role I also offer training and education to patients, carers and staff on all aspects of continence care.

As part of my drive to reach more people suffering with continence issues, I have introduced a weekly bladder retraining clinic and a bi-weekly trial without catheter clinic at Farnham Hospital, as well as a monthly newsletter for hospital colleagues educating them about current practice.

A big initiative recently was World Continence Week, which takes place annually in June.
The campaign was devised by the World Federation for Incontinence Patients and the International Continence Society to raise awareness globally about incontinence-related conditions such as bladder weakness and pelvic pain.

Over the course of the week, I went around Farnham Hospital wards with the aim of reducing the stigma surrounding incontinence and I had a stand at the hospital where people could come and talk to me. I showed people that they don’t need to be ashamed if they have urinary or bowel problems and they can seek treatment. People often don’t realise that simple adjustments can have a big impact on these conditions, such as pelvic floor exercises to help with stress incontinence. I think having a presence within the hospital really helped to increase awareness of the help on offer – many of the staff had no idea the service even existed.

Patients now know that there is a local service that can help with this sensitive issue and it has helped people that have concerns to go to their GP and ask to be referred. That makes a huge difference.

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Brian Kinsella is Clinical Lead and Clinical Nurse Continence Specialist in East Staffordshire. Over the last 18 months, Brian and Learning Disability Nurse Steph Brinklow, have been visiting care and assisted living homes together, educating staff about continence issues and helping to change the lives of people they care for.

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