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We are writing this article because of the high numbers of phone calls we get from desperate people looking for financial assistance. A common phone call might be about a child who no longer fits into normal baby nappies, or about a relative who has suffered an accident or illness.
The process for getting free nappies is slightly different for adults and children. We will start with children.
There are quite a few things you need to think about once you have made the decision to try and get nappies for your child given to you by the NHS. Every Primary Care Trust (PCT) in the country has its own guidelines they need to follow, and you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that your child may not qualify at the time you ask for help.
The first thing you will need to do is have a meeting with some of your local healthcare professionals. A good place to start is your GP, who can give you a referral to your local district nurse or a continence advisor. These are specialist nurses who are experts in continence. Sometimes you might be able to get an appointment at an NHS continence service to see a continence advisor without a referral.
One of these criteria is the age of your child, and they will usually need to be above a certain age before they can even be considered for free nappies. This age changes from place to place but is usually 3, 4, or 5. Unfortunately we are hearing more and more about health trusts raising their age limit to 5 when it had been lower before.
Sometimes your child might need to be receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to get nappies for free, and in some cases your local trust may not have any scheme set up for free nappies; instead they can help you with treatment and potty training or can advise you on where are the best places to buy nappies privately.
Living in an area with a complete lack of a scheme is rare, but be aware that wherever you are you will more than likely find quite harsh restrictions on the number of free nappies you can get. This once again varies depending on where you live and on the needs of your child (such as if they only have accidents at night or in the day) but you can probably only expect at maximum an average of 4 or 5 nappies per day.
You will have little or no choice in the brand of nappy you can get and they are often clearly the cheaper type of product. Since the nappies are free a lot of people are happy to receive any help they can get but this can cause problems if, for instance, your child has an allergy which is triggered by the nappy. We have heard of cases where this has happened, and although it is possible to get a different product as a replacement, if this different nappy in more expensive they will be more strictly rationed.
Some trusts are faster than others at getting all the referrals and assessments together. The typical amount of time you might have to wait is probably around 3 months from making contact with your doctor to getting your first shipment. It can be faster.
In some cases the criteria are very strict and you might be denied help or find that the products supplied are not good enough. You can attempt to fight this but very often they won’t change their position. Many of our customers have come to us because of this situation.
Like with free children’s nappies on the NHS, getting products for adults involves meeting lots of different criteria in your local trust’s guidelines. These will probably include the need for you to have already got advice or an assessment from your GP or a continence advisor, and sometimes it might be necessary for you to have undergone or be in the process of a treatment plan. Some trusts will only provide free products in the case of severe or long-term incontinence.
One of the reasons for needing people to have tried different options before resorting to nappies or pads is that treatments such as bladder training can often remove the need for these products. Also, if your incontinence is caused by an underlying condition, it is extremely important that the treatment for this condition takes priority.
If you manage to get an allowance of free nappies from your PCT, you will find that (like with children) there will be restrictions on the number you can be given. You should receive the amount that your need requires, but unfortunately things don’t work out that way. Because of this, it is important to let your healthcare professionals. Either face to face, or via the Patient Advice and Liaison Service, these people need to know if you are not getting as many products as you need. This may not have an immediate effect but it is the only way they can see how widespread the problem is.
A lot of people find it necessary to buy their own products for a number of reasons. They might be on a waiting list for a referral, be going through treatment for an underlying condition or they might simply be buying extra products to make up the numbers if their free supply isn’t enough. Like with children you will have no choice in the brand of products and their quality might vary quite a lot.
Apart from these problems we have mentioned to do with the user’s eligibility or the supply issues that come from the level of funding and demand that these products get, there are other things that you might need to know if you are thinking of trying to get nappies free on the NHS.
If you do manage to get your free nappies, they will usually be delivered in bulk to you. The time of delivery might not fit your schedule, and the minimum time before you are allowed to order a refill could be in the region of 2 months. At 4 or 5 nappies a day, a 2 month supply can take an awful lot of room so this is something to keep in mind.
Some people also find that the only products available to them are either unsuitable for their needs (but not unsuitable enough to let them have an alternative) or that their medical needs change between doctor’s visits.
Because the majority of the people who need incontinence products are small children, elderly or differently-abled, the available products are geared towards these people and we are often asked for products that fit a more active lifestyle since the NHS doesn’t fill that need. In short, the system we have in this country at the moment doesn’t let people very easily get the products they need.
If you can get incontinence products for free from the NHS then why do we exist?
Why not test our knowledge and give us a call on 01636 30 20 50