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NHS psych ward period provision criticised by patients

Imagine being on your period and "forced to beg for pads and tampons". According to 24-year-old Lara, that's common for her and others on mental health hospital wards in the UK.

When she posted about her experience online, people from across the country responded with their own similar stories.

Mental health hospitals have various rules in place for safety reasons, including access to certain items. However, NHS guidance states that period products should be available to anyone who needs them. Lara says this hasn't always been the case for her.

"I've had a number of hospital admissions to psychiatric units and on one of my first they confiscated my period products," she says.

Lara's currently on one-to-one observations for her own safety, which means someone has to escort her to the toilet and watch her change a pad or tampon.

But she says her worst experience was when she's had to wear anti-ligature clothing - again for safety reasons.

"I was forced to remove my pants and sanitary pad - which meant I just had to bleed into the clothing," she says.

"I understand the need for safety to come first, but this experience was unhygienic, traumatising and embarrassing for people to see."

Eleanor is 20 years old and recently spent time in a mental health hospital.

At her "most unwell", she says she didn't have access to her own clothing and had to wear the same special clothing Lara spoke about.

"I'd have two or three people watching me changing and even though I know it's for my own safety, it's dehumanising," she says.

Newsbeat asked a number of unions, organisations and charities to comment on the experiences described but none wanted to provide one.

But one mental health professional, Kasper, did agree to discuss it.

Kasper agrees that safety is always a top priority but adequate period provision is often overlooked."I'm sure all trusts have a policy, but don't think it's always applied - and my observation is that it very much depends on what staff are on shift, especially when there can be lots of agency workers," Kasper says."We do keep products on my ward, but there's not much of a range.

"Patients can't access them and some staff don't know where they are either - so the onus is very much on patients, which can be tricky when they're unwell."

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Source: BBC News, 16 October 2023


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