A-Z

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.
 

Michelle gets 2 catheters a month and drainage bags on repeat prescription from her pharmacy. Her...

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Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
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Catheters, I still get provided for locally. They’re on my repeat prescription. I have the, I can order 2 catheters every month and I also order my leg bags and my night bags on my repeat prescription every month. 
 
So there I phone up my pharmacy. I tell them what I need on a monthly basis. They organise it all with my GP practice and, two days later, it’s all, get the doorbell ring and it’s all delivered.
 
Oh that’s good.
 
Which I have to say is a huge advantage these days. Whereas years ago it used to be, put your prescription into the doctors, go back and collect it two or three days later, take that to the pharmacy. The pharmacy would get everything in. You’d go back two or three days after that and have a huge box of things that had to be manhandled out to the car, and carers would have to organise, so nowadays from that perspective that’s a lot easier.
 
My continence pads come through the continence service here and that’s just changed to a nationally provided service. So I know that every ten weeks I’ll get a delivery of continence pads, which usually I’ll have sort of ten or twelve packs arrive at a time which means trying to find storage for those.
 
So they might come from a long way away?
 
Yeah, they just get delivered by a delivery firm now.

 

 
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Sara's GP writes her a prescription and all her catheter equipment is delivered to her by her...

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Age at interview: 60
Sex: Female
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I have everything that I need here because you never know when something might go wrong and you have to call out one of the emergency girls in the middle of the night or something like that. And they won’t necessarily have all the equipment with them. 
 
And where do you get all your supplies from? 
 
My doctor writes a prescription for me. So that all works. 
 
Do you have to send that somewhere or can the chemist get it for you? 
 
No the chemist delivers it. 
 
Oh good, so it’s not too difficult? 
 
No. 

 

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).
 
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For a couple of years Sharon didn't know she was entitled to free prescriptions. She found this...

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Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
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The only thing I would say to people, which I didn’t know for a couple of years, is you can get free prescriptions. I used to spend a lot of money, obviously on antibiotics, and catheters. I mean there’s so much you need that goes with the catheter, you know, the water. And that’s what I found on that site, Bladder and Bowel Foundation that I used to go on. I found out that you, when you’ve got a stoma, a permanent one, you can get free prescriptions.
 
All your drugs now?
 
Everything.
 
Are free?
 
Yes.
 
That’s really important.
 
Even my GP didn’t know. Because I had to get a form, I can’t remember what the form’s called, from the doctors. And obviously you’ve got to write down what’s wrong with you and then the GP signs it.
 
Oh good, that’s really important.
 

Yes because, like I say, it used to cost me a lot of money for prescriptions.  

 
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Faye has a Prescription Pre-payment Certificate. She should be exempt from paying for catheter...

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Age at interview: 29
Sex: Female
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Where do you get your supplies from?
 
All over. Some things I have to send off for, and other things I will get from the pharmacy. But I’ve had to find a lot of them and I’ve had to do it myself.
 
Do you get a prescription from the doctor for all this?
 
Yeah, I get a prescription but then, once I’ve got the prescription, it’s in my hands and I’ve got to find where I can get these items from.
 
And does the National Health Service pay for all these items?
 
I have a pre-payment exemption card so I pay that every month, so I suppose yeah the NHS does pay for some.
 
You have to pay for this?
 
Yeah.
 
You don’t get an exemption because you’ve got a stoma?
 
No I have, I do know that I should but I just can’t find anyone else who has heard of it. You know through the support group that I know a lot of people have got free exemptions ‘cos they’ve got the stoma, but I just can’t get anyone round here to understand it.
 
So how much do you have to pay every month?
 
It’s £10.74 I think.
 
A month?
 
Yeah.
 
For a card, and then you can get your supplies,
 
Yeah.
 
Without having to pay anymore?
 
Yeah.
 
Okay. And do you find it quite easy to find what you need and what you want?
 
I do now, yes. But in the early days no, it was difficult. Once, now that I’ve got all my suppliers, it really is easy.
 
So what do you actually have to get, to have at home?
 

I have to have catheter valves, Instillagel, dressings, tube holders.  

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.
 

Stewart recommends taking your own catheter equipment on holiday or to the hospital. Hospitals...

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Age at interview: 87
Sex: Male
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Take your equipment with you, your own equipment if you’re on or going on holiday… I always make sure that I have a spare, well one or two spare catheters and bags and flip-flows. 
 
And make sure, if you’re going to go into hospital, ask, take some of those with you because even the hospital, even if the hospital say that they have a catheter, it may be a different type altogether. And, if they haven’t got what you need, then they try to fit you up with what they think is the nearest, but very often the nearest isn’t near at all. 
 
And there have been times when I’ve been in hospital and been fitted up with pads and so on that were obviously not right. They were more like for, you know for pregnant mums and so on. Much too big and clumsy. 

 

 

Melanie keeps spare catheters and bags in case of an emergency. She also has a spare urethral...

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Age at interview: 55
Sex: Female
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Do you usually keep an emergency supply at home for changing the catheter?

 

I like to keep, I have spare catheters, yes, in case there’s an emergency. I have spare catheters there and spare leg bags. I like to keep a nice little stock pile and I suppose one always lives with the awareness that if you got a blockage you might have to have an emergency change. I still have with me, that I got from hospital, it’s an emergency urethral catheter pack. So if for some terrible reason something happened with my suprapubic, I have the ability and the knowledge, because they trained me to do this in hospital, I know how to do an emergency catheterisation on myself. 

 
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John Y orders his catheter equipment over the phone and usually gets it the next day.

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Age at interview: 77
Sex: Male
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Where do you get all these supplies from? The bags etc. 
 
I phone up Charter Healthcare, which is a firm known as Coloplast, or used to be, and I just say could I have this, that and the other and they usually arrive within 24 hours. 
 
Oh that’s good. 
 
And then they send the bill to the GP. 
 
Oh that’s even better. So do you have to have a prescription from the GP or…? 
 
No, I just phone up, I could, I just dial their number and I say oh it’s John from wherever it is and, “What can we do for you?” And I say I’d like 10 leg bags please and I’d like four of the sleeves or I’ll have two packs of so on, and I’ll have two packs of thirty of the night bags. And they send me 60 of those. And it just happens just like 
that. 
 
Oh that’s good. So no delays. 
 
No delays at all. 

 

 
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Frances orders her catheter equipment over the phone. She has been using the same type of...

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Age at interview: 64
Sex: Female
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I also get Savitex spray, which is a cannabis based spray which I get from the doctor. The doctor prescribes it. And that stops spasming and, if I know when the district nurses are going to come, if I take a couple of sprays of that. It usually helps stop the bladder from going, it just ties itself into knots you know.
 
And just going back you get the bags from?
 
I just ring up the agent, this agency,
 
And they deliver them?
 
Yeah.
 
And this is on an NHS prescription?
 
And they get the prescription direct, they get the prescription for it from my GP. And what I normally do is, because after all these years I still have the same catheter and the same bags, I quite often just order enough for the year so there’s only like one lot of postage, ‘cos they come and deliver it. And I think well one lot, it’s a way, and I know I’ve got enough there now for a year.

 

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.
 

You might not get the most up to date information on drainage bags at the hospital. Iain...

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Age at interview: 35
Sex: Male
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The hospital doesn’t always give you the most up to date information on maybe what collection bags are available for you. And the one website I find very beneficial, they’re also, it’s a company, it’s run by Coloplast, it’s one called Charter Healthcare. They do urological supplies, you know dispensing.
 
All you do is to get a prescription from your GP and they send you the catheter bags at your house for free, and they’re fantastic. They do not just their own makes but every other make of bags out there, and they’ve also got a very small selection of what they get in the hospital, whereas in the community, and there’s such a better selection out there now than there was maybe even say ten years ago.
 
Right, what’s the website address?
 
Charterhealthcare.co.uk I think.
 
I’ll have a look.
 
But if you Google Charter Healthcare, you’ll find them straightaway. As I say, it’s run by Coloplast, they run it. But they’re on their own and they sell every urological bag there is out there. They do a lot of like stoma stuff as well I believe, they do everything, delivered to your house and it’s very discrete.
 

I get this stuff sent to my work for example, and I’m not worried about being seen by having that there, ‘cos there’s nothing of their name on it at all apart from the distribution address. It’s just a very small name on there, a distribution label. And only if you know what it is, ‘cos it’s very non-descript, and Charter Health could be anything. 

 

Charles orders his catheter equipment on the internet. He was told very little at the hospital...

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Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
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I get them [catheter supplies] from a company which has been delivering me, first off they delivered my IC catheters. So I’ve been dealing with them, and they more or less do next business day delivery. 
 
So if I ordered it, I order it on the Internet or you can phone them up, “Oh, I need some of these.” They have, now I’m very fortunate. Because of my condition I don’t pay. I have a medical exemption certificate for all my medication and medical equipment, so basically I don’t have to pay for any of this. And I have, I probably get deliveries once a month of leg bags, night bags, all the other bits and pieces as well, you know. 
 
They also supply wipes. They’ll supply disposal bags for, because every day there’s a dead night bag, and they go into a plastic bag which you, we can actually get rid of in the rubbish. So, you know, they’re very useful and they have actually been quite helpful. 
 
And can people get all that information from the hospital when you first go there? 
 
Unfortunately not. The hospital information is, this is why one of the problems, I think, is that the hospital information is lacking in the sense that they believe that this sort of care, this sort of ongoing information should be the province of the GP. And they don’t, the hospital will deal with acute situations but not ongoing situations. 
 
For instance, I don’t see as a matter of course either my neurologist any more, used to, and I don’t see my, sort of my occupational therapy people on a regular basis, I only ever see them on an acute basis. So there’s an assumption that new information will be supplied to you by the GP. 

 

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.
 
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The manufacturers have discontinued the leg bag Badg normally uses. He's found another supplier...

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Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
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I throw all the leg bag, night bag and flip flow away and put a new set on. 
 
And these you get on prescription do you? 
 
Yeah. 
 
Are they delivered here? 
 
Yeah. The pharmacy, there’s a pharmacy in the village that deliver it, as pharmacy’s will these days. They’ve actually just retired my leg bag. I had a letter from the manufacturers of the leg bag two days ago to say we’re about to retire this product. Which is a bit of a shame because it’s called a knee bag and it’s a 1500ml bag. And it doesn’t actually look too bad when it’s full, but it gives me that much more scope to drink when I’m out somewhere where there isn’t a good place to go and empty my leg bag. So this morning I’ve been researching other leg bags. I found somebody else does a 1300ml one, so that will help. 

 

 
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Jennifer found out about different types of dressings on the internet and was sent free samples....

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Age at interview: 26
Sex: Female
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And you can get all this [catheter equipment] on the national health service? 
 
On the national health service. I just think, you know, find out. I actually found out, I was using a similar dressing by Allevyn, the company that make Allevyn dressings, a similar dressing which had, which I found out just by coincidence one time going to see my practice nurse. My site was a bit sore and she put some cream on it, and she said, “Right, I’ll put,” and I hadn’t took any of my dressings that I was using at the time. She says, “Oh I’ll put this on for you.” 
 
She put it on me and it was a lot comfier, a lot more padded or comfortable and absorbent. Oh this is really good, but it had this adhesive that really didn’t suit my skin. So I looked it up on the internet and they had this massive web page of all these different dressings. And I e-mailed them and I said you know, “Can I speak to someone? Who do I contact?” And this woman rang me back and she said, “Look, you know I’m the one that sends all the products out. Tell me what you’ve got and I’ll send you a massive selection out of samples and then it’s got all the product codes for your prescription. Decide what you want and let your GP know.” 
 
So I went through them all, tried them all for a few weeks ‘cos I had absolutely loads. I had about thirty odd of the things, found the one I wanted that suited me and then I found the tape.
 
That’s brilliant. 
 
I don’t know how I found out about the tape. I found out the tape a couple of months later. 
 
Is this a company that you were in touch with? 
 
I went into a company on the internet.

 

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’).
 

Richard’s wife orders his catheter equipment. He tried a different catheter valve once but it...

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Male
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They [catheter supplies] are delivered on a regular basis. My wife deals with that generally, and we’ve had a bit of difficulty with the authorities trying to take you this way and that way. And the main difficulty we had was, I think it was an intention of cutting down on the cost, but they tried to persuade us to use different, I’ve got a flip-flow valve on the catheter. And they tried to persuade me to use this other valve which didn’t match to my catheter. And so I kept getting leakage, which was highly, was really infuriating. 
 
But then we’ve gone back to the original flip-flow valve and that’s sorted it out. But you do have to watch out for things such as that. You could easily think well, you know it doesn’t matter to me, I’m not bothered which valve I use. But certainly if you’ve got a working system, you’re best to stick with it in my experience.
 
Yeah. So if something works, don’t make too many changes?
 
No.

 


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Last reviewed October 2018.
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