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Comment - Nurse education is vital to maintain services

  • Comment

Eileen Shepherd

DipN, Editor, Continence Journal

The 2006 Continence Awareness Week was a great success. Continence services ran market stalls and awareness sessions and they distributed leaflets through GP surgeries to remind the general public that incontinence is not an illness but a symptom that can often be alleviated. It is essential that we raise awareness among people who are currently trying to cope with their continence problems without help. They may be embarrassed or believe that nothing can be done and this can result in family and relationship problems as well as unemployment and social isolation.

The 2006 Continence Awareness Week was a great success. Continence services ran market stalls and awareness sessions and they distributed leaflets through GP surgeries to remind the general public that incontinence is not an illness but a symptom that can often be alleviated. It is essential that we raise awareness among people who are currently trying to cope with their continence problems without help. They may be embarrassed or believe that nothing can be done and this can result in family and relationship problems as well as unemployment and social isolation.

However, there is a problem with raising public awareness of continence problems. If people come forward with unmet needs they then need access to a service that can address their problems. It may take a patient many years to find the courage to ask for help and it is therefore frustrating if they then have to join a long waiting list for assessment or treatment.

Fortunately, over the past 20 years there has been a steady increase in the number of continence advisers and according to the Continence Foundation every postcode in the UK is now covered by a specialist service. The UK has a well developed network of organisations that aim to improve the care of people with bowel and bladder dysfunction. For many years the Association for Continence Advice has provided multiprofessional support to healthcare professionals while InContact, PromoCon, the Continence Foundation and ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence) have provided support and advice to people with continence problems and their carers.

However, continence services are a target for financial cost savings and as we report in this issue of the Continence Journal, financial pressures are beginning to take their toll as continence posts are lost or frozen and product budgets are cut.

The worry is that along with clinical services, education for health professionals will also suffer. General nurses really do need access to education about continence. In this issue of the journal Joanne Mangnall and her colleagues identify the importance of education and training in residential and nursing homes, where it is known that continence care can often be significantly improved by taking simple measures. The skill lies in knowing what to do and how to do it and that is why continence services must retain their current levels of funding.

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