The NHS in England and Wales has announced that hospital inpatients will be given free access to sanitary products.
The new requirement, which will be written into hospital contracts, will mean anyone receiving treatment will be able to request pads, pantyliners, and tampons when they need them.
As well as offering reassurance to anyone needing urgent care unexpectedly, the move also will help those who are in hospital long term, including mental health inpatients.
A recent survey showed that at least one in four women and girls has had to miss work or school due to not being able to afford sanitary products.
The move comes as public bodies see pressure to tackle what has become known as “period poverty”.
Similar rules are expected to be introduced in Scotland.
‘Reducing the stigma’.
Tina Leslie, Founder of the charity Freedom4Girls, said: “This is a great initiative and is a fantastic step forward. NHS England have stepped up to the mark and been proactive in ensuring that hospital patients get tampons and sanitary towels.
“It is also breaking down barriers and reducing the stigma around periods. When women go into hospital it can be a worry to know what to do if you start your period, but now that worry is taken away as they know they will be catered for.”
Ruth May, England’s Chief Nurse, added: “Periods are part of life and too often we take it for granted that everyone has easy access to sanitary products.
“Period poverty affects an estimated one in 10 girls in this country and it can cause real anxiety when you can’t find the right product when you need it.
“Health problems are stressful enough, and this move will mean that the embarrassment, discomfort and anxiety finding yourself in hospital without adequate protection on your period will be a thing of the past.”
Helen Whyley, Director, RCN Wales said: “I’m delighted that Welsh Government have realised the importance of providing free sanitary products and that these will soon be available to all women in Welsh hospitals.
Going into hospital can be distressing and since it’s not always planned, it can be embarrassing for women who find themselves unprepared. In addition, having sanitary products available is vital for young girls experiencing period poverty.”