Can I get incontinence products on the NHS?

You may be able to get incontinence products on the NHS, such as incontinence pads or bedding, but it depends on your local NHS organisation. To qualify for incontinence products, you may need to:

  • be assessed and start a treatment plan
  • meet criteria set out by your clinical commissioning group (CCG)  

Incontinence is when you unintentionally pass urine or stools (faeces) 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 can 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 diarrhoea, so treating the other condition may prevent the incontinence; for example, diarrhoea can be treated by changing your diet, taking medication or retraining your bowel

Read more about treating urinary incontinence and treating bowel incontinence.

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.

If you're eligible for incontinence products, you should be given as many as you need. 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).

Continence clinics

There are over 360 NHS continence clinics in the UK that 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 don’t need to be referred by your GP and you can phone them directly to make an appointment. 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.

For more information, read how to get NHS help for incontinence.

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 and living with incontinence.

The charity PromoCon (Promoting Continence and Product Awareness), which is part of Disabled Living (based in Manchester) has independent advice on products that can help manage bladder and bowel problems. For more information on products and to order them:

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.

Further information:

 

Urinary incontinence

Stress, childbirth and age can all cause incontinence. Get expert advice on treatments, including pelvic floor exercises, medication and surgery.

Media last reviewed: 18/03/2013

Next review due: 18/03/2015

Page last reviewed: 28/08/2014

Next review due: 27/08/2016