Saturday 26 November 2022 10:35 PM Older people left with incontinence after hospital visits as NHS staff 'fit ... trends now

Saturday 26 November 2022 10:35 PM Older people left with incontinence after hospital visits as NHS staff 'fit ... trends now
Saturday 26 November 2022 10:35 PM Older people left with incontinence after hospital visits as NHS staff 'fit ... trends now

Saturday 26 November 2022 10:35 PM Older people left with incontinence after hospital visits as NHS staff 'fit ... trends now

Older people who spend time in hospital are being discharged suffering from long-lasting incontinence because NHS staff are too busy to take them to the toilet while they're on the ward, experts warn.

One reason, say specialists, is inappropriate use of urinary catheters – a tube inserted into the urinary tract which empties the contents of the bladder into a drainage bag.

There are strict criteria for who should have one fitted, including those with existing urinary incontinence and patients unable to move due to having undergone a major operation or suffering spinal or pelvic injuries. But research has revealed that on some wards the procedure has become almost standard practice.

A study published in the British Journal Of Nursing suggests that as many as 54 per cent of catheterisations in older patients are unnecessary. In addition, even when use is appropriate, almost half of patients are left with catheters for longer than recommended.

In a 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal, one junior doctor shockingly admitted that 'sometimes it's easier to stick a tube in' instead of finding the time to monitor urine output – a vital indicator of health – or to help a patient to go to the toilet repeatedly.

Older people who spend time in hospital are being discharged suffering from long-lasting incontinence because NHS staff are too busy to take them to the toilet while they're on the ward, experts warn

Older people who spend time in hospital are being discharged suffering from long-lasting incontinence because NHS staff are too busy to take them to the toilet while they're on the ward, experts warn

The study also found that nurses were unclear about protocols for who should have a catheter and that women are more likely to have one fitted as 'it's easier for men to pass urine when less mobile'. Catheters are far from risk-free. They often trigger urinary tract infections and one patient in five struggles with urinary leakage or difficulty starting or stopping urination after having one.

Professor Nikki Cotterill, an expert in continence care at University of the West of England, said: 'When a patient is admitted, the goal should be to keep the patient as near to their normal level of continence as possible. Too many patients are catheterised.

'There's a risk that the bladder can lose tone because it is not filling and emptying normally.'

Other research highlights a 'pad-happy' culture on wards. Frail or older patients are automatically given incontinence pads and told to relieve themselves in the pad rather than waiting to use a toilet.

Over time, this can cause muscles in the pelvis and back passage to weaken and patients have difficulty resisting the urge to go.

The use of incontinence pads is also linked to a higher risk of skin conditions such as dermatitis, as well as urinary tract infections, due to the build-up of bacteria that can occur inside the pad.

Dr Julie Ellis-Jones, senior lecturer in adult nursing at University of the West of England said staffing problems are an issue. In the past healthcare assistants, supervised by a qualified nurse, would have been on hand to help patients go to the toilet and manage problems with continence, but there just aren't enough of them now.

Catheters are far from risk-free. They often trigger urinary tract infections and one patient in five struggles with urinary leakage or difficulty starting or stopping urination after having one (file photo)

Catheters are far from risk-free. They often

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