We need a national continence strategy

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP is teaming up with a physiotherapist to bust the stigma around incontinence and call for a nationwide strategy. 

He wants to see training put in place for midwives and health practitioners on the benefits of physiotherapy exercises, an awareness campaign and research into the costs, extent and causes of incontinence. 

There are currently no official figures on the cost or extent in Scotland, however, in Australia, a study carried out by Deloitte found the cost to be over £5,000 per person with incontinence in 2010.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: 

“Ask anyone what their greatest fears are and incontinence is likely to feature in their top 5. Yet we struggle to talk about it as a society. There’s a view that it’s only linked with old age or infirmity but it has the potential to affect all age groups and demographics. 

"The tragedy is that all too few Scots who suffer the condition take steps to get help and this can have a massive wider impact in terms of depression, anxiety and social isolation. 

"There’s an economic cost to dealing with incontinence as well. We don’t know the exact figures for Scotland but Australia have calculated that it costs their country over £5,000 per person, per year. 

"There are steps that we can take, right now to improve this picture and that is why I’m calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a national continence strategy as a matter of urgency.” 

Pelvic-health Physiotherapist Elaine Miller said:

“Incontinence is one of the single most important measures of life quality that there is and it quietly intrudes on everything you want to do. Few people are aware that help is available and even fewer actually seek that help. We can change that so their lives aren’t restricted by bladder and bowel issues.

"Physiotherapy is recognised as the frontline gold standard treatment for pelvic health problems, but all too few health practitioners have the training necessary to deliver pelvic physiotherapy, treatment and awareness. We need a national continence strategy because it’s a huge public health problem, which is under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-managed in Scotland.” 

  • Alex has submitted the following parliamentary motion with the view of submitting it for a member’s business debate:

That the Parliament understands that incontinence has the potential to affect everyone at some point and that the condition can arise as a symptom of a range of varied medical conditions, such as obesity, traumatic childbirth and muscle weakness; recognises that 20% of women between 17 and 30 will experience so-called giggle incontinence, which has the potential to lead to greater complications in later life, in particular the need for surgical interventions, including transvaginal mesh implants; understands that the only country to have calculated the costs associated with this is Australia, which estimates these to be around $43 billion (£25 billion) per year as they go beyond the provision of sanitary wear, medication and surgery, and include the cost of dealing with the depression and anxiety that can arise; recognises what it sees as the importance of physiotherapy in alleviating the symptoms, and notes that, when provided early, this has reportedly proved effective in 80% of cases; understands that there is no formal training around basic incontinence prevention in Scotland for the midwifery, health visitor or physiotherapist workforce; acknowledges the taboo around the subject, which, it believes, suppresses an open discussion about it and often prevents people experiencing the condition from seeking help, and notes the view that the case for a national incontinence strategy is compelling, as it would be important to improving the life quality of hundreds of thousands of people in Edinburgh and across the country and would be of benefit to the public purse.

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