Defining and developing a new female urinal to better meet user needs

Existing female urinals work well for some users in some circumstances, but there are currently no female urinals available that provide a good user experience for women lying down.

Project Lead and Organisation

Dr Joe Langley, Sheffield Hallam University

When did project start?


Clinical Requirement

The NHS estimates that between 3 and 6 million people in the UK have some degree of urinary incontinence. Functional incontinence is a description of urinary incontinence where a person is aware that they need to urinate, but are unable to access bathroom facilities due to physical and/or mental limitations. Urine loss varies from small leakages to complete bladder emptying.

Portable or body-worn urinals allow a person to empty their bladder when access to a toilet is limited. An effective urinal must be leak-proof, comfortable, discreet, easy to use, available, affordable, low noise, zero odour, ‘leak-detection’, overcoming gravity and other user-defined preferences yet to be identified. Female urinals for use lying down, whether in the hospital or at home, present an engineering challenge that has not yet been adequately met. In the absence of such a device, patients use alternatives that may not be well suited to their needs.

Developing The Solution

We have explored existing devices, different user groups, and associated design constraints. We have also explored contexts, models, products and technologies including sensors, materials and coatings. Within this initial research, we have identified frail women lying down as a user group who would greatly benefit from the development of a novel solution, and for whom there is the potential for an economic justification for a better product.

Frailty is not age related, may be permanent or temporary but fundamentally affects ability for timely access to toilet facilities. Using the background knowledge and adopting a participatory design process, we are currently seeking patient partners and funding to bring together experienced relevant healthcare professionals and relevant technical expertise in order to address this non-trivial problem. This will challenge the imagination and inventiveness of the designers, engineers and scientists involved.


There is the potential for great clinical and commercial impact for a female urinal with the ‘right’ design, and details will become increasingly clear as the project progresses and specific user needs are identified.  Comments received on existing devices, and that demonstrate the practical implications for the users of these devices include the following:

“Sharp edge”
“This will spill”
“Too small to fit”
“This will come apart”


  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • Elaros
  • Vernacare
  • The Bladder and Bowel Foundation
  • University of Southampton
  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals