Listening and learning: catheter users explain their needs | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - February 2007

Listening and learning: catheter users explain their needs

Seventy per cent of people who use catheters long-term suffer distressing complications — a shocking statistic. Many contract infections, which can sometimes become life-threatening.

Long-term catheter use is highly problematic. The bags that collect the urine can be heavy, smelly and difficult to disguise under clothing, making many patients feel undignified. Up to half of users find that their catheter gets blocked, causing leaking or painful retention of urine, and emergency visits to a nurse to clear the blockage can be exhausting and traumatic.

There is a desperate need for better ways to manage incontinence, but a lack of firm data on catheter users’ experiences, and the associated costs, is hampering product development.

Action Medical Research has awarded a grant of £135,858 to a team of researchers based across the South of England to conduct some long overdue research into catheter use. Professor Kathy Getliffe of Southampton University will work with colleagues in Oxford, Bristol and Guildford to build a database of detailed information, drawing on the experiences of hundreds of catheter users and their carers, through interviews and questionnaires. Clinicians and product developers will also contribute through focus groups.

The team is developing two sophisticated questionnaires. One will measure users’ needs and abilities, addressing cognitive ability, mobility and manual dexterity, and the level of dependency on carers. The second questionnaire will focus on how catheters affect quality of life.The researchers will also explore the costs of long-term catheter use, to healthcare and social services, users and carers.

This study will provide the firm data that product developers need to improve catheter design and make them more user-friendly and easier to manage. The quality of life questionnaire and data on costs will enable developers to evaluate the benefits of new products. TL

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