Living with a urinary catheter

Getting catheter equipment

Catheters and other items such as drainage bags are prescribed by the doctor. Some pharmacies have to order the catheters and other equipment, so advise people to make sure they have enough to last while waiting for the next order to come in. Many healthcare companies offer a home delivery service whereby the prescription is sent to the company and they send the catheters and other supplies to a person’s home. 
 
Some people we interviewed said they took their prescription to the local pharmacy (chemist) where they got all their catheter supplies, including drainage bags, catheters, wipes and valves. Stuart got everything he needed on prescription apart from rubber gloves, and wondered why this was. Several people had the supplies delivered to them at home by their local pharmacy. A few people who took daily medications because of their condition had repeat prescriptions for those.
People with certain medical conditions, those requiring a permanent fistula or stoma that may need continuous surgical dressing, or anyone needing an appliance such as a catheter, can get a valid Medical Exemption Certificate for free NHS prescriptions (see Resources). A fistula is an abnormal connection between an organ, vessel or intestine and another structure. Fistulas are usually the result of injury or surgery. A stoma is an opening, either natural or surgically created, which connects a portion of the body cavity to the outside environment (e.g. a colostomy).
Most people found it easier to order what they needed over the phone and often got their orders the next day. Gordon, aged 96, wondered why at his age he had to order the supplies himself. John Z said that his catheter often became blocked. When he ordered more catheters over the phone through his local continence service, he was sometimes asked why he needed more so soon. Several people stressed the need for spare catheter equipment at home and also taking spares on holiday or when going to the hospital.
Pat ordered catheter supplies for her husband and said she ordered 5 at a time. She pointed out that if you get too many catheters at a time, they might go ‘out of date’. Some people ordered their catheter supplies on the internet and these were delivered to them at home or, in Iain’s case, at work.
Some people would have liked more information about the different kinds of catheter equipment available, such as the various types of valves and drainage bags. Drainage bags, for example, can vary in size and where they can be worn depending on the length of tubing. Charles had never been told about this in hospital and he assumed it had been left for his GP to tell him.
Several people preferred to order the equipment they’d used for some time rather than research other alternatives. Richard said he prefers to stick with what works rather than experiment (see ‘The catheter of the future: what catheter users say they’d like’).

Last reviewed June 2015.

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