Continence care - what are my options?

If you or a loved one are affected by incontinence, find out where you can go for support.
Woman in a wheelchair outside

Incontinence is a condition that causes the involuntary passing of urine and/or faeces and affects approximately 14 million people.

Read our advice on where to go for help if you suspect you may be affected by incontinence and the services available to support your needs.

Where can I go for support?

Incontinence is a common problem, but many people feel too embarrassed to seek help. However, talking to your GP is the first step towards finding a way to manage the condition effectively.

Incontinence can usually be diagnosed after a consultation with a GP, who will ask about your symptoms and may do a pelvic or rectal examination.

Find out more about diagnosing urinary incontinence and bowel incontinence.

Treating incontinence

Initially, a GP may suggest some simple non-surgical measures to see if they help improve your symptoms, such as:

  • Lifestyle changes, like cutting down on caffeine and alcohol.
  • Bladder and bowel training.

You may also be offered continence products, such as absorbent pads or medication to help you manage your symptoms.

Surgery may also be an option. The procedures that are suitable for you will depend on the type of incontinence you have.

Find out more about treating urinary incontinence and bowel incontinence.

What continence products are available?

Incontinence pads, products and devices can make life easier for you while you wait for a diagnosis or a treatment to work.

A wide range of products and devices are available for incontinence.

They include:

  • Pads and pants
  • Bed and chair protection
  • Skincare and hygiene products
  • A special key (Radar key) that can help you access public toilets

Where can I get continence products?

If you have mild to moderate incontinence, you can buy thin, discrete pads or pull-up pants for men and women from many supermarkets and pharmacies.

The NHS does not recommend using incontinence pads without advice from a doctor or continence adviser. Still, they can improve your quality of life as a temporary measure and save you from being housebound or spending all your time in the toilet.

The charity Bladder and Bowel UK gives independent advice on products that can help manage bladder and bowel problems. For more information on products and how to order them, you can call its helpline on 0161 607 8219 or visit the Bladder & Bowel UK website.

The Continence Product Advisor also gives independent advice on choosing and using suitable continence products.

Is financial help available?

You may be able to get incontinence products on the NHS, such as incontinence pads or devices like handheld urinals. This depends on your local NHS organisation. To qualify for incontinence products, you may need to:

The Continence Care Service is run through The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and serves adults of all ages, both male and female, who are registered to a Wolverhampton GP by a referral process.

Find out more

Where can I dispose of products?

It is essential you know how to dispose of your continence pads safely. It depends on the type of product you use as to how you should dispose of it correctly.

The best way of disposing of used pads is to place them in a small bag or nappy sack and then dispose of them in the standard family dustbin for local refuse collectors. Never attempt to flush any incontinence pads down the toilet.

Continence services should tell you:

  • How to dispose of your continence products.
  • How you can return unused continence pads when someone has died.

Find out more about disposing of continence products.

Continence support for children and young people

Like adults, children and young people should visit their GP if they are experiencing bladder and bowel problems. Eric, the children’s bladder and bowel charity, has information for children and teenagers and parents and carers about the care and treatment options available.

Incontinence in Confidence also provides confidential advice on incontinence for teenagers. The Continence Foundation of Australia created this website with lots of information about practical and emotional support.

Continence support in care homes

Incontinence can be a reason someone is admitted to a care home. While living there, they are entitled to the same level of support from NHS continence services as those living in their own homes.

Residents should be taken to the toilet frequently and provided with the appropriate continence products. Care home staff should treat residents with compassion and empathy.

If you or a loved one are unhappy with the support you receive, it is crucial to speak up about the issues you face to ensure your care meets your needs.

Read our social care advice

What are urinary catheters?

A urinary catheter is a flexible tube used to empty the bladder and collect urine in a drainage bag. It is usually used when people have difficulty peeing (urinating) naturally. It can also be used to empty the bladder before or after surgery and to help perform specific tests. It can also be a last resort for treatment for urinary incontinence when other types of treatment have been unsuccessful. 

Look at the NHS website for more information about urinary catheters and support for people living with them.

Support for your mental health

It can be challenging to adjust your life around incontinence, leading to many people feeling depressed or deflated when they cannot continue their everyday routine.

If incontinence affects your mental health, you should visit your GP to receive further help and advice.

The charity Mind also provides advice and information about mental health conditions and support.

Where to go for further advice

  • Bladder & Bowel UK gives independent advice on products that can help manage bladder and bowel problems. 0161 607 8219, Monday to Friday, 9am-4.30pm.
  • Eric is the children’s bladder and bowel charity. They offer a helpline for families and online information about bladder and bowel problems. 0808 169 9949, Monday to Thursday, 10am–2pm.
  • Bladder Health UK have been offering advice and support about bladder conditions for the past twenty years. They have a free confidential helpline. 0121 702 0820, Monday to Friday, 9.30am-2.30pm.
  • Bladder and Bowel Community support millions of people in the UK are living with conditions that affect their bladder or bowel. They run a closed Facebook group for people looking for peer support or email
  • Continence Product Advisor gives independent and evidence-based advice on how to choose and use suitable continence products.