Life-changing facility for people with severe physical and learning disabilities opens at hospital.

As part of the commitment to equality and inclusion for all, Medway NHS Foundation Trust opened a Changing Places toilet for people with significant learning and physical disabilities – making it the first acute Trust in Kent and Medway to offer the facility.

Changing Places toilets, which are larger than a standard wheelchair accessible toilet, are specially equipped to ensure those who are unable to use a toilet independently, can use the bathroom with dignity and hygienically. The facility at Medway Maritime Hospital has been fitted with a height-adjustable toilet and sink, an adult-sized changing bench, hoist and colostomy bag shelf, and is big enough for two carers and a person to use comfortably.

In the absence of Changing Places facilities, disabled people and/or carers face:

limiting what they drink to avoid needing the toilet when they are out – risking dehydration and urinary tract infections
sitting in soiled clothing or dirty nappies until a suitable toilet is found or they return home having to change a loved one on a dirty toilet floor manually lifting someone out of their wheelchair – risking safety reducing their time out of the house – restricting their social lives.

Dr George Findlay, the Trust’s Chief Executive, officially opened the toilet on Thursday 12 May 2022, with the help of service users David Campbell and Helen Tucker and their carers Marcin Koziol, Deputy Manager, and Jenny Mason, Service Manager, who both work for Avenues Support Services in Rochester.

The life-changing facility was made possible thanks to funding from Medway NHS Foundation Trust and The Medway Hospital Charity.

Jenny Mason, Service Manager for Avenues Support Services in Rochester, said: “Having the Changing Places toilet at Medway Maritime Hospital will help improve access for the disabled population.

“When carers visit venues without a Changing Places toilet, the person they are supporting will quite often have to wait until they return home to be changed, which is unpleasant, uncomfortable and undignified.

“Thanks to the Trust creating this facility carers can attend hospital appointments without added fear or stress knowing they can provide the service user, or their loved one, with the necessary care on site without delay.”

Fiona Anscomb, the Trust’s Lead Stoma Nurse, said: “Providing a colostomy shelf in the Changing Places toilet is also a welcomed addition as it means users can place their colostomy bag and other essential items on a secure and safe platform allowing them to change or empty their bag with ease.”

Dr George Findlay, the Trust’s Chief Executive, said: “Access to safe and suitable bathrooms is a human right.

“Changing Places toilets really are life-changing as it gives people with significant learning and physical disabilities, and their carers, the space and the equipment they need to have the confidence to leave their homes and attend appointments or visit loved ones in a hospital setting. By opening the facility here at Medway Maritime Hospital we really are helping to tackle the exclusion that people with complex needs face.”

Located in the Atrium, Level 2, Green Zone, the new Changing Places toilet can be accessed by patients, carers and visitors, as well as staff, who have a radar key.

The total number of active Changing Places toilets registered across the country so far is 1,715. The Trust will now liaise with the Changing Places Consortium to get the facility at the hospital registered on its website.

In the short video below, Jenny Mason, Service Manager for Avenues Support Services in Rochester, and Medway NHS Foundation Trust’s Chief Executive Dr George Findlay talk about the importance of the Changing Places toilet being created.

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