NHS takes big step forward by making sanitary products freely available for all patients

The BMA is delighted that the NHS in England will be making sanitary products freely and readily available for all patients from July after months of campaigning to bring the issue into the spotlight.

A recent BMA investigation highlighted the often poor and inconsistent provision of sanitary products in hospitals across the UK, as it called for sanitary products for to made freely available for all inpatients owing to the damaging impact on their health, dignity and wellbeing.

This was first raised as an issue by doctors at the annual BMA conference in June last year, and NHS England has since engaged positively with the BMA on the issue to deliver this great outcome for patients.

BMA medical students committee member, Eleanor Wilson, who championed the issue prompting further research from the BMA, and who is also President of the Red Alert Society at the University of Glasgow which was set up to provide sanitary products to vulnerable women in the City, said:

I am so delighted that an issue, which doctors brought into the public domain only last June, has now been addressed for the benefit of so many women. When patients are under our care in the NHS, we need to make sure they feel as welcome and looked after as possible. Providing them, freely, with sanitary protection – simple but key to their health and wellbeing - is vital to their sense of self-worth.

For the Government and NHS England to have responded so quickly and effectively to our ask is extremely welcome. We look forward to a consistent and standardized provision of pads and tampons in England’s hospitals so that women can feel confident rather than embarrassed or unsure about asking for them.

It may seem like a small change but for hundreds of thousands of patients and the staff who care for them, it’s a big step forward in providing compassionate care.”

The BMA hopes that this initiative by NHS England will encourage other organizations across the UK to take a stand against period poverty, as commenting, BMA board of science chair, Prof Dame. Parveen Kumar, said:

The BMA is delighted that NHS England has supported our call for sanitary products to be made freely and readily available for all patients across England from July.

Since being raised as a concern by doctors in June last year, the BMA has undertaken extensive research into the poor provision of sanitary products in hospitals, including Freedom of Information requests to all English hospital Trusts. This showed how patchy or non-existent the provision was and the relatively small cost of providing tampons and pads free of charge. We are pleased that our work, since then, with NHS England has culminated in such a successful result for women, bringing an end to indignity on top of ill-health.

In taking this step, the NHS has shown that it can lead by example. As well being an important influence in the shift that is necessary towards ending period poverty, this will be a relief for many patients who will no longer face the embarrassment and stress of not being able to freely and easily access sanitary pads and tampons.”

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