Wales politics

Stroke and heart attack warning over toilet shortage

Engaged toilet
Image caption Local authorities do not have legal duty to provide toilets

A lack of public toilets puts vulnerable people at greater risk of strokes and heart attacks, assembly members have been told.

A cross-party committee also heard a shortage of toilets interfered with police work as officers had to return to their stations to use the toilet.

AMs took evidence on the public health implications of inadequate facilities in Wales.

They heard of a 40% decline in public toilets across the UK in 10 years.

Karen Logan, a nurse consultant and head of the continence service at Aneurin Bevan Health Board, told AMs about the severe consequences for someone forced to hold their bladder because a toilet is not available.

'Full bladder'

She said: "Holding on to a full bladder or bowel increases the heart rate, it increases blood pressure.

"For very old, ill, vulnerable people this could cause a stroke, a heart attack and other health implications."

She added: "I don't think it is quantified. It's probable, it's supposition really. There's no evidence there to say how many that could occur to or how many it has.

"It's just a physiological effect of holding on to a full bladder or bowel."

AMs heard evidence from British Toilet Association director Mike Bone that the number of toilets across the UK has decreased by some 40% over the last 10 years.

He said people working in vehicles - such as truck drivers, road maintenance workers, taxi drivers and police officers - were greatly affected.

Mr Bone said: "There are reports that, for example, police have been told that they must go back to the station... if they can't find a toilet and you can imagine a cost in terms of their time and the fact that they're not available to deal with crime while they're doing that.

"We've already heard about lorry drivers who've been fined for using a lay-by as a toilet when they've tried in five different towns to (find) a toilet.

"So this is a really big issue."

Gillian Kemp, of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Network, said: "I have come across an incident where a police constabulary were told not to drink too much so they don't keep coming back to the police station, which is totally unacceptable."

Figures indicating the decline in toilet numbers in Wales are not available. It was suggested to members that this is because there is no requirement on councils to provide them.

Local authorities are not under a legal duty to provide toilets.

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