The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is encouraging NHS acute trusts to apply for funding to build larger and better equipped disabled toilets.
Originally announced by minister of state for care Caroline Dinenage in December 2018, the £2m funding will enable the introduction of over 100 ‘changing places’ toilets across NHS hospitals in England.
Changing places toilets are larger than standard disabled toilets and offer equipment such as hoists and adult-sized changing benches.
However, the NHS only offers 30-40 of these facilities at the moment, the DHSC said.
From 1 June, trusts will be able to submit their request for the central funding, which is available for the 2019/2020 and 2020/21 financial years and will need to be used by 31 March 2021.
The DHSC estimates the cost of installing this type of facility to range from £25,000 to £35,000 and specified that it will allocate funding on a ‘matched funding basis, with trusts contributing to the cost’.
Ms Dinenage said: ‘I urge NHS trusts across the country to apply for this funding. Severely disabled people and their carers must be reassured that they can access these essential facilities when attending appointments in a hospital, of all places.
‘I have met campaigners with personal experience who highlighted just how important changing places are for maintaining safety and dignity.’
She said that a quarter of a million disabled people could benefit from the investment.
In the absence of changing places facilities, people with disabilities and their carers have to compromise by, for instance, changing someone on a ‘dirty toilet floor’ or putting safety at risk by manually lifting them from their wheelchair.
Disabled people might also be forced to limit what they drink to avoid using public toilets, if appropriate facilities are not available, the DHSC said.
Muscular Dystrophy UK head of policy and campaigns Clare Lucas said: ‘Changing places toilets give people more confidence and independence because they no longer have to worry about what will happen if they are caught short.
‘We encourage all NHS trusts to help break down barriers faced by disabled people and apply for the funding.’
The funding is part of a cross-government strategy to improve accessibility, and the Government is also considering making it mandatory to have changing places in ‘new, or majorly refurbished, large buildings used by the public’.