Government bosses have announced plans to double the number of Changing Places toilets in NHS hospitals across England.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said more than £500,000 has been made available to 10 trusts across England today to start work on 16 new facilities, with a further £1.5 million available to bid for.
Changing Places toilets feature additional equipment for people who are not able to use the toilet independently, including adult-sized changing benches and hoists.
Health bosses say there are currently more than 50 of these facilities on the NHS England estate, a number that is expected to increase to more than 100 following the first round of funding.
People with severe disabilities, such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, and their carers say Changing Places facilities can be life-changing and allow them to go out in public or attend hospital appointments without fear or stress.
In the absence of these facilities, disabled people and their carers face limiting what they drink to avoid needing the toilet when they are out, risking dehydration and urinary tract infections. Sitting in soiled clothing or dirty nappies until a suitable toilet is found or they return home or having to be changed on a dirty toilet floor. As well as risking the safety of both parties by manually lifting someone out of their wheelchair, or reducing their time out of the house, restricting their social lives.
Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said: ‘People with severe disabilities deserve to live with dignity and independence, but lack of access to adequate toilet facilities can be a huge challenge. Hospitals, like all public spaces, have a duty to cater for people with disabilities – who risk discomfort, embarrassment and even injury without access to a Changing Place.
‘This funding will make a real difference to tens of thousands of people and their carers who use NHS hospitals and I am delighted that trusts can begin building work as soon as possible, with further funding still available.
‘While today will help us to double the number of Changing Places in NHS trusts, we still have far to go – I expect every hospital development to include a Changing Places facility in their future plans.’
Lorna Fillingham, Changing Places campaigner, said: ‘My 9-year-old daughter is disabled, she has physical and learning disabilities that mean she may never be toilet trained. When she was a baby her toileting needs were catered for, but as she has grown older, in most places, including my local hospital, they no longer are.
‘Like many other disabled people, she really needs Changing Places toilets, with a loo, adult changing bench and a hoist. I have had to physically lift her, using manual moving and handling techniques that I would not have been allowed to use when I used to work as a nurse, and which puts both myself and my daughter at the risk of physical harm.
‘Changing Places change lives and should be in place in every NHS hospital for dignity, for safety, for comfort. I’m pleased the government is taking action to improve accessibility and hope more trusts apply for funding and have a Changing Places facility built at their hospital’
Disability Rights UK spokesman, Anna Morell, welcomed the move as a ‘first step’ but said more ambitious action is needed. She said: “There are a quarter of a million people who need to use these facilities across the country. It would be amazing to see them in every hospital, and what we’d like to see in time is one in every ward – just like with standard toilets.’
Photo Credit – Changing Places