High Street shops have been accused of charging an unfair premium on vital incontinence products. An estimated six million Britons suffer some form of incontinence and many rely on absorbent pads that slip in the underwear – one billion of which are purchased annually in the UK.
Other sufferers opt for disposable, padded underwear that serves a similar purpose.
However, a consumer probe by web-based retailer Incontinence Choice, shared exclusively with The Mail on Sunday, has found a huge variation in prices charged by well-known shops.
It compared like-for-like ranges sold on the high street and found Boots’ Staydry Extra Pads were the priciest, with a year’s worth costing £419.75, or 23p per pad.
Asda provided the cheapest option on the high street, charging 13p per pad for their Protective Pads Extra and Extra Plus products, or £237.25 per year, and 12p per pad for the Regular type – a 77 per cent difference between the two retailers.
An estimated six million Britons suffer some form of incontinence and many rely on absorbent pads that slip in the underwear – one billion of which are purchased annually in the UK
A representative for Incontinence Choice said: ‘We compared products that are exactly the same in absorbency and materials, so we see no reason for some of them to be almost twice the price of others. It seems unfair.’
A spokesman for Boots said: ‘We offer a selection of choices across our incontinence range, including pants, pads and liners, as well as larger pack sizes to suit our customers’ convenience and prices from 10p per unit in our Staydry range.’ The company also pointed out that purchasing multipacks of the products works out cheaper per unit.
The research also discovered that, during the past six months, the UK’s top supermarkets were found to have increased prices on certain incontinence products by more than 30 per cent.
According to price-comparison website Priceable, in March Asda Protective Incontinence Pads Extra Plus cost 99p for eight. The price has now increased to £1.30 – a hike of 31 per cent. A 12-pack of its Unisex Super Absorbent Underwear Incontinence Pants also increased by 30 per cent during the same period – from £5.39 to £7.
Asda and Sainsbury’s charged £4.50 for a 20-pack of Always Discreet Incontinence Pads in March – the price has now risen by 11 per cent to £5.
Specialists in incontinence told this newspaper that difficulties in affording pads has caused patients to make tough decisions, such as wearing pads for far too long to ‘make them last’ or reusing single-use incontinence underwear.
Others are simply left housebound as they are unable to afford the products or can’t go out for fear of having ‘an accident’.
Karen Irwin, a specialist nurse and service manager at Bladder & Bowel UK, said the situation was well-known to them: ‘People with bladder and bowel problems should be able to live with comfort and dignity. Rising costs [of pads] is yet another barrier to this.
‘We know that not having the right products can stop people leaving the house, seriously affect mental health and also cause a massive strain on relationships.’
A consumer probe by web-based retailer Incontinence Choice, shared exclusively with The Mail on Sunday, has found a huge variation in prices charged by well-known shops.
In January, the charity launched a campaign to tackle ‘incontinence poverty’, saying: ‘We hear more and more people are unable to afford essential products to manage incontinence. One in ten adults in the UK are affected by faecal incontinence and the issue is closely associated with advanced age. It is estimated that 34 per cent of women are living with urinary incontinence, too.
‘Incontinence poverty is a growing issue which can lead to significantly lower quality of life for individuals and their families, as well as other physical and mental health problems.’
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, pelvic physiotherapists – who specialise in offering exercises to patients with continence issues – have voiced similar concerns.
One, Victoria Muir, who runs the Pelviccore clinic in Bedford, said: ‘This is something that patients have spoken about for a number of years and has become more of a problem with the high cost of living.
‘Bladder and bowel leakage is a very significant health issue. I treat both men and women and the cost of protection, including pads, is always a source of concern.’
Roseanna Grace Conway, of Roseanna Grace Physio in Newcastle, said: ‘The pad industry doesn’t over-advertise that many people with incontinence can get better given the right physiotherapy support. That means many people stay reliant on pads.
‘Sadly, in the last year especially, I’ve had patients tell me they wear pads overnight and then keep using it the next day if it’s not too soiled.
‘We are seeing more cases of thrush and UTIs as patients aren’t changing pads to save money.’
Commenting on the high price of some products, she added: ‘You might pay more if there’s a difference in quality – for instance, 100 per cent cotton, organic products.
‘But if brands are charging high prices for basic ranges then it’s hard to see a justification.’
The Incontinence Choice probe found that the Always Discreet Pads range were second-most expensive at £383 per year, or 21p per pad, and Superdrug Extra Incontinence Pads, at £365 per year or 20p per pad, were third.
Morrisons came in at 17p per pad – or £310.25 a year.
Even more budget-conscious than Asda was the online-only brand Vivactive Lady Discreet Active, which costs 12p per pad, or £219 a year.