The Labour Party has slammed NHS trusts in England over a lack of policies for providing sanitary products to women inpatients.
None of the 137 NHS trusts that responded to a Labour Party freedom of information (FOI) request said they have policies in place to provide free sanitary products to women during menstruation.
The findings come after NHS England announced on 3 March that from July, all NHS trusts will be mandated to offer free sanitary products to women inpatients as part of the new standard contract for 2019/20.
The Labour Party said many of the trust who responded to the FOI stated that they provide sanitary products to women if they ask ward staff. However, none of the trusts had formal policies in place.
An absence of equal access to sanitary products results in ‘profound inequalities for women across England’, the party said.
It added that in some cases, trusts direct patients to buy menstrual products from hospital shops, while other trusts make decisions on offering them free of charge on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.
Previous research by the BMA similarly revealed variation in the provision of these types of products across NHS trusts.
The BMA found that, of the 187 trusts who responded to its FOI requests, only 26% said sanitary products were ‘available to purchase at some of the sites within their trust or health board’.
Commenting on the Labour Party findings, Labour MP Paula Sheriff said: ‘Patients aren’t asked to bring in their own toilet paper, or their own food, so why are they being asked to do that with sanitary products?
NHS trusts should recognise this and fully support women. It’s a matter of basic dignity.’
‘Give patients the best experience’
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens acknowledged the need to provide every patients with access to ‘the essentials of daily life during their time in hospital, and that should include sanitary products’.
He said: ‘It’s fundamental that we give patients the best experience possible during what can be a stressful time of their life, and by providing sanitary products the NHS can prevent unnecessary embarrassment and leave people to focus on their recovery.’
BMA board of science chair Dame Parveen Kumar said: ‘The BMA is delighted that NHS England has supported our call for sanitary products to be made freely available for patients, across England from July this year.
‘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 FOI requests to all English hospital trusts.
‘This showed how patchy or non-existent the provision was and also 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.’