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NHS Supply Chain helping to enhance quality of life for people living with incontinence

18 June 2021

NHS Supply Chain is helping to support people living with bladder and bowel problems by using their experiences to ensure products to manage incontinence meet their needs.

During the process to develop a new supply framework for continence products, users of these products were asked for their views about the types of products they use and the features that are most important to them such as form, fit and flexibility to be considered as importantly as absorbency and size. There was also engagement with parents and carers of children to understand their needs from paediatric products such as nappies.

The clinical team within NHS Supply Chain: Rehabilitation, Disabled Services, Women’s Health and Associated Consumables, collated all the responses to help shape the scope and lot structure on the new framework.

We recognise that people with bladder and bowel problems have a wealth of personal experience and an extensive understanding of how the symptoms impacts on their lives. They and their families have become ‘experts by experience’ and have a wealth of working knowledge of the available products.

When developing our new continence framework, we wanted to involve them as well as healthcare professionals to really understand how products can best meet their needs clinically, as well as exploring opportunities for innovation.

We understand that having a bladder and/or bowel problem, can result in embarrassment, anxiety and distress. This can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and may even result in social isolation.

An appreciation of the impact that bladder and bowel dysfunction have for individuals has played a vital role in informing and shaping our frameworks and product specifications.

Lisa Charlesworth, Clinical Engagement and Implementation Manager

The new Disposable and Washable Continence Care framework will go live on 2 August 2021 and features 1,148 new products, including the addition of more than 600 new washable and recycled products, as well as introducing new eco-friendly paediatric nappies to the framework.

For us to assure the upcoming frameworks for NHS Supply Chain, feedback from users of our products, carer groups and advocate groups within the NHS is vital.

By utilising the knowledge and requirements of people with bowel and bladder problems within the framework development ensures that individuals and families are offered choice in products that meet their clinical needs, ultimately enhancing quality of life.

Fay Allen, Clinical and Product Assurance (CaPA) team, NHS Supply Chain

Media Enquiries

Jo Travis

Corporate Communications Manager

07598 546 070

Notes to editors

Bladder and bowel dysfunction are not uncommon in adults, affecting both men and women.  Underlying health problems can affect nerve and muscle function which affects the ability to control the flow of urine and release of stool. These vary in their causes and may be temporary, with urinary retention, or infection, progressive, for example with multiple sclerosis or can be permanent duration following a stroke, spinal cord damage or post-childbirth.

These can result in difficulties in fully emptying the bladder, or in leakage, known as incontinence. Similarly, bowel problems resulting in faecal incontinence and difficulties emptying the bowel, constipation, can also occur.

NHS Supply Chain acknowledges that the experiences of patients with bladder and bladder problems need to be robustly addressed in product evaluation and any necessary product changes occur.

About NHS Supply Chain

NHS Supply Chain manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products, services and food for NHS trusts and healthcare organisations across England and Wales.

Managing more than 4.5 million orders per year, across 94,000 order points and 15,000 locations, NHS Supply Chain systems consolidate orders from over 800 suppliers, saving trusts time and money and removing duplication of overlapping contracts. 

Lord Carter’s report into efficiency and productivity in the NHS, published in 2015, identified unwarranted variation in procurement across the NHS, resulting in the need to improve operational efficiencies to transform a fragmented procurement landscape. To undertake this transformation the Department of Health and Social Care established the Procurement Transformation Programme (PTP) to deliver a new NHS Supply Chain.

The new NHS Supply Chain was designed to help the NHS deliver clinically assured, quality products at the best value, through a range of specialist buying functions. Its aim is to leverage the buying power of the NHS to negotiate the best deals from suppliers and deliver savings of £2.4 billion back into NHS frontline services by the end of the financial year 2022/23.

The new model consists of eleven specialist buying functions, known as Category Towers, delivering clinical consumables, capital medical equipment and non-medical products such as food and office solutions. Two enabling services for logistics and supporting technology and transactional services which underpin the model.

Key benefits the NHS Supply Chain will bring NHS trusts and suppliers include:

NHS Trusts

  • Savings channelled back to frontline services
  • Releasing more time for core clinical activities
  • Greater NHS clinical involvement in purchasing decision
  • More effective introduction of new products.


  • Lowering sales and marketing costs
  • Single route into the national market
  • A joined-up approach across the NHS
  • Clear route for innovative products.

On 1 April 2018, a new commercially astute management function of the new NHS Supply Chain called Supply Chain Coordination Limited (SCCL) went ‘live’. The management function is responsible in driving strong commercial capability, providing a relentless approach to creating value, gain competitive advantage, become the strategic procurement partner of choice for the NHS, manage the delivery and performance of the Category Tower Service Providers and its enabling logistics and technology services whilst overseeing continuous improvement. SCCL is a limited company, wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, SCCL is part of the NHS family. For more information on our category service tower providers go to