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Make period products free for struggling nurses, say unions

Survey reveals nearly one quarter of people who menstruate struggle to afford sanitary items, with some resorting to toilet paper and sponges

Survey reveals nearly one quarter of people who menstruate struggle to afford sanitary items, with some resorting to toilet paper and sponges

As the cost of living rises, NHS employers should consider making period products freely available to nurses and other healthcare staff who are struggling to afford them, unions have said.

The RCN and Unison also said nurses and other staff need to be able to take proper breaks to change their sanitary items when they need to.

Survey reveals many respondents concerned about period product affordability

It comes as a

Survey reveals nearly one quarter of people who menstruate struggle to afford sanitary items, with some resorting to toilet paper and sponges

Survey reveals nearly one quarter of people who menstruate struggle to afford sanitary items
Picture: iStock

As the cost of living rises, NHS employers should consider making period products freely available to nurses and other healthcare staff who are struggling to afford them, unions have said.

The RCN and Unison also said nurses and other staff need to be able to take proper breaks to change their sanitary items when they need to.

Survey reveals many respondents concerned about period product affordability

It comes as a new survey revealed nearly one quarter of people who menstruate say they have struggled to afford period products in the past year, with some resorting to makeshift materials including toilet paper and sponges.

Charity WaterAid surveyed 2,000 British women and non-binary people who menstruate aged 14 to 50, and found that nearly one third (32%) are concerned they will not be able to afford period products in the future.

RCN women’s health forum chair Katherine Gale said: ‘Period products are a necessary part of life and this survey shows how much concern there is about being able to afford this vital product.

‘As the cost of living is hitting many nursing staff hard, we would encourage employers to take steps to make these products available at a reasonable cost or even for free. Alongside this, nursing staff need to be able to take their breaks in dignity so they are able to access them.’

Some NHS trusts providing support to low-paid nursing staff

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: ‘Many health staff are struggling to make ends meet, and period products are a significant but necessary expense.

‘Some NHS trusts are providing support so low-paid staff and their families don't go without the essentials. But much more help is needed.’

The survey also found 22% of those surveyed have relied on free period products from work or a charity, and one in four are also wearing period products for longer than they should, putting their health at risk.

It’s a problem that’s been widely reported by nurses. A Nursing Standard analysis in November 2021 found nurses are risking the rare but potentially life-threatening toxic shock syndrome (TSS) because they are unable to take a break to change their tampons at work.

The risk of TSS increases with the use of ‘super-absorbent’ tampons, or when one is left in longer than recommended.

One nurse told Nursing Standard: ‘It is tempting to go for the size-up tampon if you’re not sure what your flow will be like or how easily or often you can access a toilet in peace.’

There is no national policy on providing free period products at work, policy decisions are left to individual NHS employers.


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