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Guidance to improve bladder and bowel problem services

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NHS England has published guidance to help improve the care and experience of children and adults with continence issues, including a focus on educating health professionals.

It brings together the most up-to-date evidence-based resources and research to support commissioners and providers, said NHS England, which claimed it had the ability to “make real and lasting changes” to standards of care for continence.

“Too many people are suffering in silence and not receiving the care and support they need”

Jane Cummings

The guidance encourages much greater collaboration between health and social care, working in partnership with the third sector, as set out in the body’s five-year plan, the NHS Five-Year Forward View.

Increased preventative services, easily-available information and advice, and more integrated health and social care could have a significant impact on reducing the number of patients with continence issues and the severity of problems, according to the Excellence in Continence Care: Practical guidance for commissioners, providers, health and social care staff and information for the public.

It highlighted, in particular, two “important areas of work” – the need to make health professionals more informed and educated about continence issues, and to robustly measuring patient outcomes to ensure 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.”

“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,” she added.

Sarah Elliott, chief nurse at NHS England for the 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,” she said.

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 dysfunction.

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