Midwives, health visitors and other health professionals should get specific training on incontinence prevention, as part of a new nationwide continence strategy in Scotland, according to the Liberal Democrats.
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton, MPS for Edinburgh Western, said it was time to tackle taboos around the subject that can prevent sufferers seeking treatment.
“Ask anyone what their greatest fears are and incontinence is likely to feature in their top five”
In a motion put to the Scottish parliament, he suggested a national continence strategy could help improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
He said he also wanted to see more research on the extent, causes and cost of incontinence in Scotland.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said he had teamed up with Edinburgh-based physiotherapist Elaine Miller, an expert in pelvic health and stand-up comedian, to call for change.
In particular, he said he was keen to see more emphasis on the benefits of physiotherapy exercises when it came to alleviating symptoms with training for midwives and others.
“All too few health practitioners have the training necessary to deliver pelvic physiotherapy, treatment and awareness”
His motion stated there is currently “no formal training around basic incontinence prevention in Scotland for the midwifery, health visitor or physiotherapist workforce”.
This is despite research evidence that physiotherapy exercises could help in many cases, said Mr Cole-Hamilton.
Ms Miller said: “Physiotherapy is recognised as the frontline gold standard treatment for pelvic health problems, but all too few health practitioners have the training necessary to deliver pelvic physiotherapy, treatment and awareness.
“We need a national continence strategy, because it’s a huge public health problem, which is under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-managed in Scotland,” she added.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said he had submitted the motion in the hope that it would be debated by MSPs.
Lib Dems call for incontinence prevention training in Scotland
“Ask anyone what their greatest fears are and incontinence is likely to feature in their top five,” he said. “Yet we struggle to talk about it as a society.”
He said: “There’s a view that it’s only linked with old age or infirmity but it has the potential to affect all age groups and demographics.
“The tragedy is that all too few Scots who suffer the condition take steps to get help and this can have a massive wider impact in terms of depression, anxiety and social isolation,” he said.
“There are steps that we can take, right now to improve this picture and that is why I’m calling on the Scottish government to introduce a national continence strategy as a matter of urgency,” he added.
Wording of the motion proposed by Mr Cole-Hamilton:
”That the parliament understands that incontinence has the potential to affect everyone at some point and that the condition can arise as a symptom of a range of varied medical conditions, such as obesity, traumatic childbirth and muscle weakness; recognises that 20% of women between 17 and 30 will experience so-called giggle incontinence, which has the potential to lead to greater complications in later life, in particular the need for surgical interventions, including transvaginal mesh implants; understands that the only country to have calculated the costs associated with this is Australia, which estimates these to be around $43bn (£25bn) per year as they go beyond the provision of sanitary wear, medication and surgery, and include the cost of dealing with the depression and anxiety that can arise; recognises what it sees as the importance of physiotherapy in alleviating the symptoms, and notes that, when provided early, this has reportedly proved effective in 80% of cases; understands that there is no formal training around basic incontinence prevention in Scotland for the midwifery, health visitor or physiotherapist workforce; acknowledges the taboo around the subject, which, it believes, suppresses an open discussion about it and often prevents people experiencing the condition from seeking help, and notes the view that the case for a national incontinence strategy is compelling, as it would be important to improving the life quality of hundreds of thousands of people in Edinburgh and across the country and would be of benefit to the public purse.”