Create Open Health: Voices for Change

A project to initiate positive change for those affected by bladder and bowel conditions.

Did you know?

More than 1 in 5 of us in the UK are affected by bladder and/or bowel control issues? 

Bladder and bowel conditions are very common in the UK, affecting more than one in five people – and yet it is not a subject openly talked about. More common than hay fever, we know that symptoms can significantly affect everyday lives. 

We have developed the Voices for Change project – part of our Create Open Health open innovation programme – in partnership with the Bladder and Bowel Health Integration Team (BABCON HIT) at Bristol Health Partners, and Disruptive Thinking. 

Its purpose is to give a voice to those people affected by bladder and bowel control issues, to understand the challenges faced by those living with the condition or caring for someone who does. The project’s long-term aim is to open up conversations about what can be a very sensitive topic, and lay the groundwork to initiate positive, meaningful and enduring change, with the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives. 


As with any healthcare challenge, the starting point is always in thoroughly understanding the problems to be able to clearly articulate the needs.  

During the discovery phase, we reached out to people with bladder and bowel control issues, as well as those caring for them, to gather valuable insight from those with lived experience. We especially wanted to hear from people who are disproportionately affected and from under-represented groups, and we offered an inclusive and accessible approach for information gathering. 

Key learnings, insights and recommendations

The key insights and learnings from the discovery phase have been collated into a report. 

The report explores many of the challenges faced by those living with bladder and bowel conditions, or caring for someone who does, drawing out problem statements that lead to the identification of six key themes: 

  1. Perception 
  2. Communication 
  3. Environmental 
  4. Wider health services 
  5. Mental health and anxiety 
  6. Participation 

The report also features expert reflections on the insights gathered from people with lived experience. We have built on these reflections to identify six action points for healthcare providers, commissioners, researchers, innovators and local government to consider – suggesting improvements to existing information, services and pathways and guiding thinking around developing or identifying innovative healthcare solutions. 

Read the full Voices for Change report here

View the report’s infographic summary here.

As clinicians we should create opportunities for sensitive conversations about bladder and bowel incontinence. By doing this we can work with our patients and other colleagues to find practical solutions to embarrassing situations, and so enable our patients to face life with greater confidence.

Alison Tavaré, GP and Clinical Lead at the West of England AHSN

Additional support

For information, signposting and confidential support, we would like to highlight the national helplines provided by:

Further research

BABCON HIT recently published collaborative research with HealthWatch Bristol examining how the COVID-19 pandemic affected people’s experiences of bladder and bowel services.  You can read ‘User Experiences of Bladder & Bowel Services during the Pandemic’ report here.

The Voices for Change project is being delivered in partnership with the BABCON HIT and Disruptive Thinking. The BABCON HIT is one of Bristol Health Partner Academic Health Science Centre’s Health Integration Teams (HITs), created to take a whole system approach to bladder and bowel continence. You can find out more about their work here.

Disruptive Thinking is a business consultancy providing programme delivery in innovative sectors including digital, media and tech startups. Visit their website here.

The Voices for Change project is the second run of the West of England AHSN’s Create Open Health programme, which was established in 2019. The programme’s first run focussed on solutions to help build resilience in young people to support their mental health. You can read more about this work here.