£2m to be invested in improving disabled toilets across NHS England
A £2 million investment in NHS England toilets has been announced in a bid to address “utterly shocking” accessibility issues facing the severely disabled.
More than 100 hospitals will build the new facilities known as “Changing Places” toilets, as part of a wider strategy to improve accessibility of public buildings.
The new facilities are larger than standard disabled toilets and have extra equipment such as adult-sized changing benches and hoists.
There are currently around 30 to 40 Changing Places within NHS Hospitals.
Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage, said: “It is utterly shocking how few Changing Places toilets there are currently in NHS hospitals and other public spaces.
“People with disabilities and their carers rightly expect to find suitable facilities in a hospital of all places”.
While the number of Changing Places facilities within England has increased from 140 in 2007 to more than 1,200 in 2018, Ms Dinenage estimates around 250,000 disabled people require the larger toilets.
Ministers are expected to launch a consultation in Spring 2019, aimed at updating building regulations to ensure the larger toilets are a requirement in all new large publicly-accessible buildings such as shopping centres.
The Department of Transport recently invested £2 million in order to increase the number of Changing Places facilities in motorway service stations.
The Government has also provided £70,000 for the development of an online map, designed to help the disabled and their carers locate Changing Places toilets throughout the country.
The announcements have been supported by leading campaigners such as CEO of Muscular Dystrophy UK, Catherine Woodhead.
The charity co-chairs the Changing Places Consortium, a group campaigning for the installation of Changing Places in all large public spaces.
Ms Woodhead said: “By investing in facilities we can tackle the exclusion many disabled people face on a daily basis.
“We, along with our wonderful campaigners, have long pushed for changes to legislation to make Changing Places toilets mandatory in new large public buildings and it’s fantastic that we are now one step closer to that reality”.
Minesh Patel, policy manager at disability equality charity Scope, said: “This investment must only be the start – we want to see these facilities rolled out across the whole of our NHS, as well as public, charity and privately-owned buildings.
“Rolling them out across the country would be a step in the right direction towards a genuinely inclusive society for disabled people.”