Today it has emerged that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has had a £44,000 taxpayer funded bathroom installed in his London office. While Jeremy has denied these claims and said that he asked for the bathroom to be installed for the use of walkers and cyclists, read more in The Telegraph article here
Whatever the truth about the bathroom is, I remain angry. While Jeremy may have got his bathroom, my daughter who attends many NHS appointments does not have a toilet facility that she can use in her local hospital when attending outpatients departments or when visiting loved ones. The Department of Health are aware of this fact, and yet nothing, for us, has changed...
The problem for my daughter is that she needs a "Changing Places" toilet with adult changing bench, toilet and hoist. She is not alone. People living with many conditions need these facilities, people with cerebral palsy, people with cancer, people who have had a stroke, amongst many other different conditions. All of these people have the need to attend outpatients appointments on a regular basis. Therefore when I first emailed the Department of Health with our difficulties I rather naively thought that lack of amenities was due to a lack of awareness. However, the response I received from the Department of Health was as follows: "As hospitals are responsible for running their own facilities, the Department would not intervene in the provision of these facilities at hospitals. I can only suggest that you raise your concerns with individual hospital trusts." They also sent me a link to a list of all the English NHS Trusts.
Now while Jeremy has got his own bathroom, we are still waiting for ours (I have emailed all the Trusts as directed by the Department of Health), but it is a long process of emailing, chasing up and then chasing up again... In 2016 there were less than 40 hospitals in the entire UK with a registered Changing Place toilet facility.
This means that in hospitals throughout the UK there are people sitting in their own urine/faeces while attending outpatients or visiting loved ones. Parents are changing their loved ones on toilet floors or other inappropriate places because there is no other alternative offered to them. I also have evidence of people self medicating to avoid toilet use when visiting hospital.
The really sad thing here is that people are being put at real risk all day, every day when using the NHS. Carers are being expected to use manual moving and handling techniques to lift their loved ones in hospitals using techniques that are prohibited for nurses and health care workers, in the same hospitals, because they are recognised to be harmful to the carer and the person being cared for. If a person with a disability is unable to be lifted by their carer then they are at a higher risk of gaining a pressure ulcer. Lastly the fact that people are having continence products changed in inappropriate places due to the lack of a real alternative, and yes we're talking toilet floors and the back of cars here, is that people are being put at a real risk of infection. All of the above is completely at odds with the hospital protocols that are in place to protect inpatients. While Changing Places toilets are so few and far between in our hospitals and clinics this will continue to occur on a daily basis. It is time for change and the NHS needs to lead by example.
So Jeremy Hunt, you may have got your bathroom and toilet, now you need to give us ours too. It's time that Changing Places toilets were compulsory in ALL NHS hospitals