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Stoma care: the market in products lets patients down

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 17 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6129
  1. Neil Basil, founder, Ostomy Lifestyle; managing director, Patient Choice, Benfleet, Essex SS7 3TN, UK
  1. neil.basil{at}

The companies that make stoma bags and accessories also sponsor stoma nurses and own the companies that deliver the prescriptions. NHS hospitals profit from the relationship. Neil Basil is worried that these incentives may mean that patients don’t get all the information and choices they should

Stoma care is big business: in 2012, £228m (€269m; $363m) worth of ostomy bags and accessories were dispensed in England alone.1 But this market performs poorly and fails patients and the NHS. The NHS buys excessive quantities of appliances, and patients routinely receive equipment that isn’t needed.

Stoma care is the support of patients after stoma surgery, typically for a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy, in which the bowel or bladder is diverted outside the abdomen—this is known as a stoma. More than 102 000 people in the UK have a stoma and will wear a stoma bag either temporarily or for the rest of their life.2 People with stomas are cared for by specialist stoma care nurses, who make sure they can look after their stoma when they go home and advise …

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