Health boards urged to make free period products available to all staff and patients.

Doctors working in Scottish hospitals have bled through their clothes because health boards are not making period products readily available.

Monica Lennon MSP and the British Medical Association Scotland have welcomed the action taken by some NHS health boards to improve access to menstrual products, however, they say it is disappointing that several boards have no policy in place.

An investigation by Monica, who was responsible for the introduction of the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act, found that five health boards do not provide menstrual products to staff and provision varies across different hospital and healthcare settings.

Monica said: “When I first investigated the availability of period products in hospitals back in 2018, not one of Scotland’s 14 health had a policy in place and we found evidence of nurses donating pads and tampons to patients.

“The situation was letting down patients and staff and whilst there have been improvements, there are clearly boards that are not taking periods seriously, even when doctors have been bleeding through their scrubs. Scotland has led the way with legislation and made access to period products in education and community settings normal. We need to now make this happen in our hospitals.

“I support BMA Scotland and their campaign for free period products to be available widely in hospitals. This is a wellbeing issue for staff and patients and we need the Scottish Government to end this postcode lottery. Period dignity is a right, not a luxury.”

Dr Lewis Morrison, chair of BMA Scotland said:

“BMA Scotland firmly believes that access to period products is not a luxury and they should be easily accessible to all NHS staff who need them when they are at work. By providing period products health boards across Scotland can play a huge role in the wellbeing and comfort of their staff, we don’t expect staff to take their own toilet roll or soap to work and periods products should be no different and should be a permanent provision for all.

“While we welcome those health boards that are leading the way in providing menstrual products to patients and staff alike, it is disappointing to see far too many responses to Monica Lennon’s FOI showing that several boards, at the very least, still don’t even have a policy of making period products available and accessible. We are asking for all health boards to provide menstrual products in all their staff toilets. We know that NHS staff working under extreme pressure often have little ability to take regular breaks as well as limited access to facilities to buy products, particularly out of hours, making this a dignity at work issue.

“The welfare of NHS staff has never been so important, as they have faced wave after wave of the COVID19 pandemic, that is why BMA Scotland regularly gives out and replenishes care boxes for NHS staff working in hospitals. The items in the care boxes are there to help make doctor’s and all NHS staff’s working lives a little bit more bearable, particularly during the challenging winter months; among the items included are period products. We will continue to refill these boxes and resupply period products to our hardworking NHS staff, and we call on health boards to join us in our efforts.”

Dr Rosie Baruah, consultant in critical care and anaesthesia in Edinburgh, said:

“Menstruation is a normal human function. Normal as it may be, it is often unpredictable, and it is frequently messy. Getting through a busy shift and being able to change your menstrual protection as often as needed isn’t always easy. And if you don’t have any with you, then you are at the mercy of a kind colleague providing you with some (assuming you know the team around you well enough to ask) or you have to improvise, usually with limited success.

“In Scotland we now have menstrual products available in schools and in hospitals for all patients who may need them, but health boards do not have an obligation to provide menstrual products for staff. If we see fit to provide loo roll in the workplace for anyone who may need it, we should also provide access to menstrual products within staff toilet facilities. More than half of the NHS workforce will menstruate, and we deserve to be provided for in this way. This provision would correct an historical omission – it’s not a ‘perk’.”