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Putting patient need first is a skill worth developing

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VOL: 96, ISSUE: 40, PAGE NO: 1

Jane Dowse

Many nurses still seem to be confused about the difference between treating continence problems and managing the symptoms of this distressing and debilitating condition.

Many nurses still seem to be confused about the difference between treating continence problems and managing the symptoms of this distressing and debilitating condition.

As a result the NHS has developed a system of care that appears to rely far too much on pads and devices. Its aim seems to be to contain the problem rather than rectify any underlying causes, yet the effective treatment of continence problems is highly skilled nursing work.

Campaigns such as this year's National Continence Week, which targeted women during pregnancy and after childbirth, help to raise public awareness. So does media coverage, and then there is the worldwide web. But this means that nurses in hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries around the country need to be able to respond to an increasingly well-informed public.

People with continence problems now have access to a wide variety of products that can be bought by mail order, through the internet or over the counter at high-street chemists. Improved access to advice and devices is a positive step, but patients with continence problems also need a thorough assessment, an individual treatment plan and the particular product that is most suited to their symptoms and circumstances.

All nurses working in the community and on hospital wards should be given easy access to continence advisers who can offer them the support and advice they need to provide the kind of service patients deserve. Expert advice is also available from organisations such as the Association for Continence Advice, the Continence Foundation and PromoCon 2001.

So when patients say they have a problem with bowel and bladder control, don't just reach for the pad and pants. They deserve, and you can offer, much more than that.

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