Call for more public toilets: St Albans MP leads debate on Crohn’s and Colitis
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More public toilets should be provided for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) as they need constant access to such facilities, parliament has been told.
St Albans MP Anne Main led a lengthy debate at Westminster last Wednesday (24), urging the government to do more for people with Crohn’s and Colitis in England.
She said: “Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Both are chronic lifelong conditions that cause inflammation of the digestive system.”
Anne used the debate to highlight problems faced by those living with the conditions and to pay tribute to Crohn’s & Colitis UK, a national charity based in Grosvenor Road, St Albans, which champions sufferers and funds research.
She said that people had more awareness of Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, “despite more people being affected by IBD than both diseases combined”.
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Anne explained: “The British public are not good at discussing bowel problems or even asking for help for them – no wonder IBD has been described as a hidden disease.
“That reluctance can lead to sufferers feeling isolated and stigmatised. We need more research. We need IBD to have a higher profile, as it affects so many of our constituents.”
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She said that an estimated 460 people per constituency were affected by IBD, explaining, “The most common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include diarrhoea, cramping pains in the abdomen, tiredness and fatigue, loss of appetite and loss of weight.
“IBD can be painful and reduce quality of life.”
However, there are problems with misdiagnosis, and IBD specialist nurses are few and far between.
Anne said: “For those living with IBD, debilitating symptoms such as diarrhoea can occur instantly and unpredictably.
“Crohn’s & Colitis UK has been championing quick access to suitable toilet facilities. I hope the minister will encourage all local authorities to evaluate the public toilet provision in their locality.”
She referred to an online debate about IBD held prior to the parliamentary discussion, where over 1,000 comments were received. Many people called for it to be recognised as a disability.
One sufferer said: “I was treated for six months by my GP for food poisoning and/or anorexia before eventually ending up hospitalised as an emergency.”
Jane Ellison, parliamentary under secretary of state for public health, paid tribute to the local charity for “campaigning tirelessly” to raise the profile and support those afflicted by inflammatory bowel disease.
She said: “Dealing with a disease that currently has no cure is a big challenge, and research is key.”
The Minister said more must be done to provide additional public toilets.
In mid-February Crohn’s & Colitis UK received an apology from the public health minister, as she confused irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with IBD.
She was told off by the organisation’s chief executive David Barker for failing to distinguish the difference between the two – IBS is a common long-term condition of the digestive system, which can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
IBD is a term mainly used to describe ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, both of which are chronic conditions that involve inflammation of the gut.
Confusion between the two is something the charity campaigns on as delays in diagnosis, or misdiagnosis can mean people do not receive appropriate treatment.