Poor bowel care for spinal injured in NHS hospitals causes avoidable suffering – but the campaign for change is being heard


Elizabeth Maliakal 

Principal Solicitor for Training & Business Development 

4 min read time
20 Mar 2024

Hudgell Solicitors and the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) are jointly calling for a Parliamentary Inquiry to be held into the provision of bowel care for patients with spinal cord injuries in healthcare settings.

If follows a recent Parliamentary roundtable meeting, organised by the SIA, which I attended on behalf of our firm, alongside around 30 representatives of the NHS, MPs and the spinal cord injury sector.

The hearing was told there is a ‘postcode lottery’ with regards to the standards of bowel care for the spinally injured across the UK, and in some cases, patients are left feeling ‘humiliated’ as they are unable to go to the toilet for days.

Hudgell Solicitors are ‘Campaign for Change’ partners with the SIA, working together to fight for change and to amplify the voice of people living with spinal cord injuries.

A key focus is our work to secure a system that works for people living with spinal cord injury by providing essential health and care support, and by building vital expertise across the health and care sector.

This campaign, which is calling for all NHS healthcare providers to have fully implemented bowel care policies in place, is a prime example of where positive change can be made.

Elizabeth Maliakal of Hudgell Solicitors attended the meeting at Westminster.

‘Bowel dysfunction the most challenging aspect of lives’

As lawyers we commonly represent patients who have suffered both physically and psychologically due to a lack of bowel care policies at hospitals, and a lack of fully trained bowel care nurses within the NHS.

It was really powerful to hear from those who have suffered spinal cord injury at the roundtable meeting, and to see them being given the platform to outline the struggles they face due to poor bowel care.

It was moving to hear them talk about how of all the injuries and health conditions they face, their bowel dysfunction is the most challenging aspect of their lives.

Those with spinal cord injury spoke articulately on behalf of all those affected by bowel dysfunction and provided a voice for all patients living with bowel problems.

Many of the people we represent face these very same struggles, but for a wide variety of reasons, often suffer largely in silence, and perhaps feel they can’t challenge or question the nature of care they receive.

The SIA is giving people platform to raise their concerns and have their voices heard, ensuring the message around the need for better bowel care was powerfully put to a Parliamentary hearing.

The campaign is already having an impact.

People in positions of power, who can make change, are hearing the message, and equally importantly, patients who are affected are becoming more aware of their right to demand more.

As lawyers, we usually represent people when sadly the damage has already been done. We challenge the care provided to them and we can and secure compensation and vital rehabilitation, but we can’t turn back the clock.

It’s a privilege to be involved in a campaign which is all about making positive change, and getting care right from the start.

Poor care impacts on dignity and self-esteem

We see in lots of our medical negligence cases that when someone is admitted to hospital their bowel care can be delayed or not attended to at all, often impacting on their dignity and self-esteem, ultimately leading to poorer, final outcomes.

We simply cannot ignore the avoidable cost of failing to have adequately trained nursing staff; from extended hospital stays and increased damages and legal costs in the context of medical claims.

At Hudgell Solicitors we are committed to helping the SIA bring about much-needed change and to improve the lives of those with bowel dysfunction. We fully support the call for an Inquiry into this issue, and we are pleased that the campaign is shining a light on bowel care in hospitals.

Improvements will benefit not only those with spinal cord injuries, but also other patients in hospital who require bowel care, for example, the elderly and patients who have had abdominal surgery.

To support this vital campaign, you can sign the SIA’s petition, calling upon the Government to insist that every Trust has a policy, and there are trained staff in place supporting neurogenic bowel conditions in every hospital, wherever you live.

Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries have a huge impact not only on the lives of those directly affected but also those closest to them, so it is vital to have a network of specialist support to ensure the best possible future. Our spinal injury lawyers specialise in ensuring families get the advice and support they need.

Read more: Spinal Cord Injury Claims

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Poor bowel care for spinal injured in NHS hospitals causes avoidable suffering – but the campaign for change is being heard

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