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Is it time for catheters to be redesigned? Mandy Fader talks to BBC

Monday 03 Aug 2015 {{NI.ViewCount}} Views {{NI.ViewCount}} Views

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Professor Mandy Fader speaking on BBC Radio 4 on 4th July, thinks "catheters are archaic and it is about time they were redesigned!"

Around 90,000 people in the UK currently use a catheter and about 1 in 5 people receive a catheter when in hospital. Indwelling catheters are the most common and they work using a balloon method in which to keep the catheter in place. These types of catheters regularly cause inflammation and trauma to the bladder. Bacteria clings to the catheter walls causing infections and it is common for patients to experience blockages and leakages when using them. Professor Fader states that the catheter design hasn't changed in 80 years since its implementation in 1937!

Melanie Reid, The Times Journalist and a catheter user agrees it is time for catheters to change. Mrs Reid stated in her interview that it is “scandalous that more is not being done to explore different ways in which to empty the bladder. Why are bioengineers not making a pace maker for the bladder? ” As a catheter user Melanie has first-hand experience of the complications using catheters can create, she regularly has bladder infections and feels frustrated that better alternatives are not being researched by bioengineers. Melanie feels this is because incontinence is seen as an unglamorous subject for professionals and embarrassing for patients to highlight their concerns. It is therefore a hidden problem but one that costs the NHS millions each year. Mrs Reid highlighted that “in Glasgow incontinence pads alone budget is £4 million, add to that bed and pressure sores, it’s an enormous hidden cost which could be solved if more bio engineering and technology put into it.”

Professor Fader agreed there is little research into how to drain the bladder in a different way, which would be safer for patients. People don’t recognise the scale of catheter use and the major health problems caused by them- more needs to be done to in order to rectify this issue.

Chris Whitehouse, Chairman of the Urology Trade Association, disagrees with Professor Fader's view and stated that “Any suggestion that catheters haven’t improved in 80 years is simply incorrect. Such an assertion ignores the efforts of manufacturers to develop catheters that meet patients’ individual needs and that are safe, easy to use and discrete. Patients now expect that the medical devices they use will have minimal effect on their lifestyles, and the industry is in continual contact with patients and health professionals to ensure this is the case. The improvements the industry continues to make are delivered in partnership with patients, and are in direct response to their requirements and expectations.”

Chris felt that it was “disappointing that anyone would suggest catheter manufacturers are not attempting to innovate and improve the quality of life of patients. There are ongoing academic studies to assess the utility of catheters currently available to patients, which are intended for a single use, and to compare them with multi-use devices. Single use catheters are the default in the UK and North America, and are aligned with the objectives of the NHS Five Year Forward View. We welcome any research that improves patient choice, quality of life and independence, but are concerned that such work could be undermined by incorrect assertions such as a lack of innovation or investment by industry.”

ICS has a number of session on catheters at the forthcoming ICS 2015:

Mandy Fader is an ICS member and previous ICS Trustee, she currently works as a Professor of continence technology at the University of Southampton.

Melanie Reid was an award-winning columnist at The Herald in Glasgow before reporting and commentating for The Times from Scotland and then on the Opinion pages. Having broken her neck and back in a riding accident in 2010, she writes her Spinal Column in the Magazine every week.

Chris Whitehouse is the Chairman of the Urology Trade Association and founder of the Whitehouse Consultancy company. He’s a Trustee of the Right to Life Charitable Trust, a columnist with Catholic newspaper, The Universe,Secretary to the Catholic Legislators’ Network, a county councillor on the Isle of Wight.

Additional Information

Melanie Reid, The Times

The Whitehouse Consultancy Press Release on Catheters

BBC Health News: Small tube - big problem

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