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Hospitals Falling Down on Toilet Provision

03 March 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

A new report claims that UK hospitals and clinics are putting disabled people and their carers at risk by not providing appropriate toilets.

The toilet access report – Making a Case for Fully Accessible Toilets Within the NHS – states toilets in NHS buildings have been found that are unsafe and that fail to ensure the dignity, safety and wellbeing of patients, staff and carers.

Further, of the 206 acute and mental health NHS Trusts, only 42 have a basic changing places assisted accessible toilet for people who need a carer’s help.


The most common safety failings include:

  • Some toilets have been found to be unsafe, e.g. by not using non-slip flooring, no emergency cords/unreachable cords or not having the right type and placement of support rails.

  • Hospitals are failing to ensure dignity, safety and well being of patients, staff and carers by offering unsuitable alternatives to standard toilets.

  • There are 155 acute NHS trusts plus 56 mental health trusts as of October 2015. Many having multiple buildings across several locations. Out of all these buildings, only 42 provide a basic changing places toilet with hoist, extra space and bench access.

  • NHS staff, for the safety of themselves and patients, cannot assist by lifting people from wheelchair to toilet or from a seated to standing position. Where changing places are not provided or other suitable equipment such as adjustable height toilets, patients must take a family member to do manual lifting/assisting. This has caused long term back pain for many carers and is painful and dangerous for those being lifted.

Other areas that were criticised in the report included poor signposting and general health and wellbeing, e.g. where a healthy adult empties their bladder every 2-3 hours, yet many disabled patients are avoiding food and liquids for several hours because they know they cannot use toilets at hospitals and clinics.

One specialist provider of hospital toilets has expressed concern at the report’s findings and has published its own findings. “Research shows some 30% of NHS users in the UK are disabled, and hospitals are the second most inaccessible buildings for them,” explained Kelvin Grimes, Project Manager, Changing Places, Clos-o-Mat. “Legally, any service provider has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the built environment that would put someone at a substantial disadvantage, and those adjustments should be made in anticipation of a need being demonstrated. Those adjustments include suitable toilet provision. Provision of toilets is a basic human right under the European Convention of Human Rights, yet is, according to the toilet access report, the most overlooked human right.”

Picture: The hospital report on disabled toilets has found many areas of basic design, sanitary conditions and safety are not being followed but our picture shows a Clos-o-Mat toilet which does conform to strict guidance

Article written by Mike Gannon | Published 03 March 2016


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