NHS England has vowed to provide free tampons and other sanitary products for hospital patients across the country, after doctors’ leaders called for the move last month.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has announced that, from this summer, all women and girls being cared for by the NHS will be given appropriate sanitary products free of charge.
“It is absolutely right that everyone has access to the essentials of daily life during their time in hospital, and that should include sanitary products”
The change comes after a British Medical Association investigation found a significant number of trusts and health boards (42%) do not supply such products at all, would only supply small amounts or would supply them only in an emergency.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, the BMA’s investigation also uncovered that only 22% of trusts said that sanitary products were readily available to purchase and 48% said that access to the products was limited in some regard.
Meanwhile, it was also identified that a number of trusts and health boards listed toiletry items such as razors and shaving foam as being provided to patients for free during their hospital stay, but not sanitary items.
On the back of its findings, the union wrote a letter to Mr Stevens, to discuss recommendations for providing sanitary products to all inpatients without which it warned could have a “damaging impact on their health, dignity and wellbeing”.
The chief executive has now promised that, as of this summer, free tampons and other sanitary products will be offered to every hospital patient who needs them.
NHS England noted that many hospitals already provide them but stated that this move will be mandated in the new standard contract with hospitals for 2019-20.
Mr Stevens said: “It is absolutely right that everyone has access to the essentials of daily life during their time in hospital, and that should include sanitary products.
“It’s fundamental that we give patients the best experience possible during what can be a stressful time of their life, and by providing sanitary products the NHS can prevent unnecessary embarrassment and leave people to focus on their recovery,” he added.
The BMA said it was “delighted” with NHS England’s promise after months of campaigning to bring the issue into the spotlight. It was first raised as an issue at the annual BMA conference last summer.
“This move will mean that the embarrassment, discomfort and anxiety finding yourself in hospital without adequate protection on your period will be a thing of the past”
Dame Parveen Kumar, chair of the BMA’s board of science, said: “Since being raised as a concern by doctors in June last year, the BMA has undertaken extensive research into the poor provision of sanitary products in hospitals, including Freedom of Information requests to all English hospital trusts.
“This showed how patchy or non-existent the provision was and also the relatively small cost of providing tampons and pads free of charge,” she added.
Dame Parveen also said: “We are pleased that our work, since then, with NHS England has culminated in such a successful result for women, bringing an end to indignity on top of ill-health.”
“In taking this step, the NHS has shown that it can lead by example,” she said. “As well being an important influence in the shift that is necessary towards ending period poverty, this will be a relief for many patients who will no longer face the embarrassment and stress of not being able to freely and easily access sanitary pads and tampons.”
England’s chief nursing officer, Dr Ruth May, noted that it is too often taken for granted that everyone has easy access to these products.
She said: “Period poverty affects an estimated one in 10 girls in this country and it can cause real anxiety when you can’t find the right product when you need it.”
“Health problems are stressful enough, and this move will mean that the embarrassment, discomfort and anxiety finding yourself in hospital without adequate protection on your period will be a thing of the past,” she added.