Every child must be fully assessed using the appropriate Continence Assessment Form

Some children with complex additional needs may never achieve continence. However, even children with significant learning, mobility or communication difficulties can achieve a good level of continence. Every child has the right to be helped to achieve their best possible level and to maintain their dignity.

Even if a child is unable to achieve full continence, a healthy bladder and healthy bowels should be promoted at all times. Constipation is very common in children with additional needs, and is often overlooked as their bowel problems are incorrectly attributed to their learning disability. Constipation may result in frequent, loose bowel actions (overflow soiling) which can cause sore skin. The full rectum and colon also occupy the space required for the bladder to expand, resulting in frequent small voids, and placing the child at risk of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) as bladder emptying is impaired.

NO child should ever be provided with nappies, pull-ups or pads without a full continence assessment to identify any bladder or bowel problems and to consider their toilet training potential. The small minority of children unable to achieve continence may be eligible for a supply of pads or nappies. As stated in NHS England’s Excellence in continence care guidance: “It must be the exception, rather than the rule, that children and young people are provided with containment products.”

The flowchart below should be followed to ensure the child receives the correct assessment, treatment and management. Continence care for children with additional needs is provided by the team who look after the child, which may include health visitors, special school nurses, learning disabilities nurses, children’s community nurses and others. It is provided in conjunction with the Children’s Continence Service.

Back to the Children's General Continence Flowchart

Delayed toilet training identified by GP
If constipation known to be present follow Flowchart for Constipation before continuing assessment
GP to inform/refer to School Health Nursing / Health Visiting / Children's Community Nursing / Learning Disability Team
Delayed toilet training identified by School Health Nursing / Health Visiting / Children's Community Nursing / Learning Disability Team
If constipation known to be present follow Flowchart for Constipation before continuing assessment
Healthcare professional to review Bladder/Bowel Assessment Chart with family
If constipation present follow Flowchart for Constipation
No concerns
If daytime bladder symptoms present follow Flowchart for Daytime Wetting
Issues identified and addressed e.g.
  • If unable to sit on available toilet, refer to OT for assessment
  • If child will not sit on toilet for sufficient time, implement behaviour programme
Toilet Readiness Assessment to be repeated 3 monthly
Child achieving sufficient skills:
  • Able to sit on toilet/potty for sufficient time
  • Bowels open regularly with soft stools
  • Bladder can store urine for at least 1½ hours
Child not ready for toilet training
Toilet training programme to be drawn up by healthcare professional and family. To be shared with nursery / school / everyone who looks after child and implementation date agreed
Child’s eligibility for provision of continence products assessed – see national guidelines for product provision
WHO DOES THIS?
The supply of products is managed by the local Continence Service. Assessments may be done by their staff, or by a generic health care professional. Authorisation for the supply will be given by the Continence Service.
Complete Paediatric Assessment Tool for Issuing of Containment Products - see Appendices 3a & 3b in the national guidelines
Eligible
Not Eligible
Discuss reasons why with family. Work with family to get child ready for toilet training
Identify suitable products from local contract list:
  • Consider washable/disposable products
  • If disposable, assess suitability of ‘all-in-one’ (nappy style) products or a two-piece system (shaped pad in pants)
  • Measure child’s hips and waist to select appropriate size products
  • Consider volume of wetting to identify required absorption
Toilet Readiness Assessment to be repeated 3 monthly
Refer back to 'Complete Toilet Readiness Assessment' in flowchart
Provide family with samples of identified product(s) to trial BEFORE placing order
When suitable product confirmed, complete local product requisition documentation
Review suitability of products after 3 months
CHILDREN FOR WHOM TOILET TRAINING IS NEVER GOING TO BE POSSIBLE:
Annual Review to assess:
CHILDREN FOR WHOM TOILET TRAINING IS ANTICIPATED:
Ongoing 6 monthly review.
Refer back to 'Complete Toilet Readiness Assessment' in flowchart