Alex Cole-Hamilton calls for continence strategy

When I was on holiday, I listened to an interesting article on Women’s Hour about a fringe show centred around pelvic floor exercises. It was both hilarious and mildly disturbing. And for a few days afterwards I was particularly diligent, as I expect many people were, before forgetting about it all again.

Elaine Miller, the person behind that show, wrote about it in the Guardian.

Anecdotally speaking, using humour as a health promotion tool works well. Proving that is tricky – the only established fact is that comedy is subjective, so, conducting a random controlled trial is fairly challenging. However, getting the public to comply with simple lifestyle changes and health behaviours has always been difficult, so, perhaps an irreverent approach is worth a shot?

Incontinence interferes with every single thing a person wants to do, and, helping someone to live a life unrestricted by their bodily functions is wonderfully satisfying, far more so than helping someone win a medal for being marginally faster than someone else. Being part of huge sports events was glamorous and fantastic, but, I am happiest on stage, at conference or in clinic proclaiming that that everyone deserves to have a decent pelvic floor.

Now it turns out that Elaine s a mate of Alex Cole-Hamilton’s and the two have teamed up to call for the Scottish Government to launch a National Continence Strategy. 

Alex has put a motion to Parliament and 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.

This is not the sort of thing that is often spoken about in polite company, so it is good that Alex has done something to highlight the private misery that continence problems can cause. Doing what he suggests could avoid this arising in the future.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Ruth Bright 16th Oct '17 - 8:12am

    An important taboo to break. Barbara Ellen wrote an excellent piece about this recently – if issues like continence stopped being “unmentionable” subjects then maybe the scandal over vaginal mesh implants (which some say is the worse avoidable health disaster since thalidomide) could have been avoided or at the very least women would have felt empowered to speak out much earlier.

  • Sue Doughty 16th Oct '17 - 9:40am

    Allied to this issue is that of the availability of toilets. When people have continence problems naturally they plan their visits to make sure they are never to far away from a loo stop. Sometimes the only loos are in pubs and we need to make it normal for it to be acceptable for all to use pub loos, even if that means putting a donation in a jar on the bar. Lots of older people are embarrassed about going into a pub just to use the loo and we need to change this.

    Well done Alex for doing this. Maybe one day in England….

  • William Town 16th Oct '17 - 9:54am

    Incontinence is not only a female problem although the clinic I attend is mostly aimed at females. Following treatment for prostate cancer, I developed incontinence last year and I am currently learning different pelvic floor muscle exercises to control it as best I can. I have since learnt that the problem is not unusual in males of my age (a young 74). However, disposal of incontinence pads is a real problem in most male loos. I have to resort to using disabled toilets although I am physically fit. I’d like to make a plea for recognition that a significant proportion of the male population is thus afflicted and to update hygiene regulations accordingly.

  • Gordon Lishman 16th Oct '17 - 12:36pm

    A good deal of work has been done on continence strategies in England and in other countries. For a few years, I excited an occasional comment by using my “Towards a UK
    Continence Strategy” bag for Focus delivery. In particular, the work of Prof John Brocklehurst at Manchester was important in developing drug-based strategies. There is (or to be accurate, there certainly was) a UK-wide continence association, mainly of clinicians but including some others. I’m also 8-10 years out of date on the academic circuits about gerontology but the Edinburgh University geriatrics department used to be very much a centre of excellence. Send me a private email if you want me to follow up.

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