Incontinence information for Lunch Clubs

We worked with two charities to provide a series of informative sessions to promote effective and appropriate management of incontinence at older people’s Lunch Clubs across Sheffield.

Project Lead and Organisation

Maria Flude, Voluntary Action Sheffield

When did project start?


Clinical Requirement

More than 3.2 million people over 65 in the UK suffer from urinary incontinence and 6.5 million people of all ages are affected by some form of bowel problem. However, incontinence is taboo – many people are not willing to openly discuss their symptoms, even with a doctor, and many people incorrectly see incontinence as an inevitable side effect of ageing and do not seek help. There is a need for greater discourse, awareness and education around incontinence and how it can be treated or managed.

The Solution

Sheffield City Council and Voluntary Action Sheffield support more than 85 Lunch Clubs in Sheffield, attended by over 2000 local older people each week, predominantly in their 70-80s. We worked with Voluntary Action Sheffield and the Bladder and Bowel Foundation to apply for Big Lottery Funding to provide incontinence information sessions for attendees.

We worked closely with Lunch Club organisers to discuss the issues that they and their attendees might be facing, and to plan what information we should present to attendees, and in what format.

It was agreed that sessions would be best received if they took the form of a short spoken presentation by a professional continence nurse specialist, followed by the opportunity to ask questions.  The specialist also provided detailed information (and some samples) to Lunch Club participants about commonly experienced bladder problems and how to manage them.


We delivered sessions to around 150 individuals, many of whom took the opportunity to discuss aspects of their health and existing continence care with the continence specialist nurse who delivered the sessions.

Some groups initiated open discussions, but the majority of individual questions were handled on a one-to-one basis. Many attendees were already using continence services in some way, but treatment was often inadequate or inappropriate in the opinion of the continence care specialist.  Many attendees felt “fobbed off” by GPs, or unable to communicate their needs and opinions to the GP. Instead, attendees preferred to get their information from charities or other sources. All attendees were given leaflets and the contact details for the BBF’s helpline. Samples of continence products were well received by attendees. Additionally, organisers commented that community facilities were often poor or inadequate.

Attendees asked questions about pads, availability and prescriptions, whether their medications were appropriate, what help is available or how to arrange assessments, and there were lots of questions around comorbidities and interacting medications. Many attendees were caring for, or had been carers for others, and many attendees had questions around dementia and continence, whether for themselves or others.

It is expected that these sessions will impact the quality of life of this group of people, empowering them to approach their GPs for the first time or to discuss alternate treatment options, and potentially reduce distress and isolation caused by urinary incontinence.

Following the sessions we also developed a checklist of information on practical toileting arrangements for Sheffield City Council to include in information packs for lunch club organisers.

The project was also presented to patients, academics and clinicians at Incontinence: The Engineering Challenge X at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. The presentation was notably well received by patient panel members. It also prompted contact about a resource around healthy aging for women, and which addresses incontinence. Aspects of learning from our project have been incorporated into this evidence-based resource.


  1. D4D at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals
  2. Voluntary Action Sheffield
  3. The Bladder and Bowel Foundation
  4. Sheffield City Council

This project was in receipt of Big Lottery Funding