In the past decade toilet facilities in the UK have fallen by 40 percent. These important facilities have been closed by cost cutting councils – odd isn’t it how most if not all councils’ increase our council tax yet reduce the services it pays for? Even if there are toilets most are closed by the late afternoon. You will not find a toilet open even in such places as Keswick, a popular tourist town in the Lake District, after 5pm.
While this is perhaps not the most serious of issues in this troubled world of ours it can be and is for may a serious detriment to living a normal life. For many with medical conditions the availability of a public toilet could mean the difference between being out and about and taking a full part in life or being stuck at home or rarely venturing far from home.
Here in the UK one in five people over 40 – about 14 million people – suffer with an over-active bladder and many people suffer with bowel conditions such as Crohns disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (often attributed to stress and anxiety and as such really not helped by worrying about finding a toilet) or the after-effects of bowel surgery. In addition many older people and children need immediate and frequent access to a toilet along with people who may suffer from a temporary health issue such as cystitis for example. Also pregnant women need access to a toilet more often as do mothers with babies who may need to change nappies. Along with the fact that the average person needs to use the toilet to urinate at least every couple of hours. People with some of the above conditions may become anxious and not go out at all or only go where they know there is a toilet and for such people the lack of facilities that do exist there is a 5am curfew – or so it seems
Workers who spend their day outside are facing increasing problems finding a toilet, people who work in our streets such as a postman or women, a policeman or women, a dustbin man are few examples of people who need access to a toilet. Recently workers tarmacking the footpaths were I live were using a bucket to urinate! Few people will allow a stranger into their homes to use the toilet and pubs, cafe’s and restaurants do not allow access to toilets for anyone other than customers.
So there is yet another aspect of life here in the UK that has deteriorated in recent years, another step backwards.
Moreover not being able to find and use a toilet may become in itself a health issue:
The bladder is directly controlled by the central nervous system — that’s why feelings of stress and anxiety can trigger the urge, but it’s also why when you’re holding on to a full bladder you can start to panic. As part of this physiological response, the heart rate starts to rise. That might be OK if you’re fit, but if you’re frail, elderly, have high blood pressure or a cardiac condition, it can put you through a period of high blood pressure which could worsen your condition or even, rarely, trigger a heart attack.
Many people stop drinking or even eating if they have to go out. I often speak to patients who stop drinking water if they know they’ve got to make that visit out. This puts them at risk of dehydration and will only exacerbate their problem, because the urine becomes so concentrated and strong that the bladder wants to get rid of it, and they also become prone to urinary infections.
It’s more than an inconvenience! The lack of public loos is bad for our health
By Karen Logan Incontinence Specialist
On a personal level I have anxiety about toilets or rather the lack thereof as a result of IBS and over active blader which incidentally seems more overactive as soon as I step out the door because of the anxiety about where or if I am able to access a toilet. And pubs, hotels, restaurants and so on are not in the least keen to let you use their facilities unless you’re a customer. Yes some may allow you to do so but please I like my dignity one should not have to ask for a toilet. There is a card you can request from the Bladder and Bowel foundation http://www.bladderandbowelfoundation.org/resources/toilet-card.asp to hand to staff in a pub for example and while this is helpful it is still embarrassing. Staff in shops may refuse despite such a card even if you have a disability. Often the excuse is that their insurance would not cover any accidents should such arise, which is unlikely. Yes of course one should not be embarrassed about a normal bodily function, but sadly many people are including myself maybe as a result of all the childish toilet humour that one has to put up with in the UK or humiliations from childhood. Which brings me to thinking of the psychological damage to children who have to go in the street because there are no toilets.
It is not only the council of course in most outdoor shopping centres there’s no toilet block and you have to hope a shop such as Sainsbury’s has the decency to include a toilet. Not all shops do, even major shops such Lidl. Also the tax office and the job centre in some major towns and cities do not allow access to a public toilet! Incredible but true. Try asking for a toilet at the Halifax Building Society and see what a fuss they make. Well at one branch anyway. I was told there was a public toilet in the nearby shopping centre, which on this particular day was closed due to refurbishing. Eventually I was allowed access to the toilet – well it was either that or cancel my appointment – but the assistant went with me and stood outside! Unbelievable , where they thinking it was some sort of attempt to rob the bank. Time all public facilities provided a public toilet. Nowadays I will walk out if the use of a toilet is refused.
This is an outrage in a so-called developed country. The minuscule savings for councils is pathetic in comparison to the harm and detriment to people’ s lives.
An acquaintance of mine has to urinate in the bushes on his way home from work as there are no toilet facilities. Not pleasant at any time particularly after dark on a cold winter’s evening. Even more shocking is the outrage of having to ask for a key at a doctor’s surgery. In one town a doctor’s surgery requires patients to go to the desk and request the key because the toilet is locked to prevent the local people from using the toilet. This is in a town that has no public toilet. This must be a nightmare for mothers with young children or elderly people who might need quick access and have to wait in a queue or anyone who is ill – it is a doctor’s after all.
In many towns there are no pubic toilets at all. To my knowledge in the Northeast the following towns do not have a public toilet Chester-lee-street, Consent, Brandon, Sedgefield and numerous villages the length and breath of the country. In addition many towns that have toilet faculties close them by 5pm or earlier. The railway station at Durham closes it’s toilets after dark before the trains stop running. If you get off the train at Durham at 11pm for example you will not find the toilet open.
A bladder and or bowel problem is a serious blight on your life without the nightmare of not being able to access a toilet and face curtailing your freedom or becoming entirely housebound. Time for councils in particular to provide toilets, night and day and to keep them open all night. This is a twenty-four hour society, people need toilet facilities , a police man/women a fireman anyone who has to work through the night or travel through the night needs a toilet . We pay our council tax after all, approaching £1000 for my family alone annually and many people pay much more.Time to give value for money. I am tired of the well-worn excuse including the austerity nonsense, before this the usual excuse was drug talking. The toilets in central Brighten near the clock tower were closed decades ago because supposedly people were using them to sell and take drugs. And please don’t use the vandalism excuse. The answer to that is more security, more policing.
Also time for shops to provide toilet facilities. Few shops provid a toilet the exception is such as Saintsbury’s Tessco, M&S, B&Q ASDA Ikia, but only the larger stores. The list of lack of public facilities will amaze you. Even such as English Heritage are happy to charge you £ 6 for Whitby Abbey yet provide no toilet facilities. Yes they quickly point out there is a toilet in the car park run by the council, a rarely in itself but that is no use if you have difficulty walking or you are a child and need to go in a hurry as it is a long walk from the abbey or the museum. The National Trust Houstead Roman Fort have toilets at the bottom of the hill but nothing in the newly renovated museum at the top – a long walk back if you get caught short. Durham park and ride, a new innovation not long constructed, but no toilets. As for disabled toilets what a nightmare! I know of someone who has often lost control of her bladder where she sits in her wheel chair because there are so few disabled toilets in Sussex or Surry and those that are available are closed in the evening.
Also consider the homeless. I recall one time in Glastonbury an altercation between the police and a homeless young women. I don’t know what it was about though I heard the woman complain bitterly that throughout the night she has nowhere to go to the toilet as the toilets in the town are all closed at 5pm. In one market town stall holders have had to make arrangements with a nearby pub to use their facilities because the council knocked down the toilet block to build new council offices. Churches except tourist cathedrals – and sometimes not even than – rarely provide a toilet. In Cartmel in the Lake District there is no toilet in the church, a tourist attraction and at one time the toilets in the village were closed down and only reopened by the villagers and despite there good intentions are filthy. Petrol stations once provided toilet facilities though not anymore unless you are using a motorway and sometimes not even then. For most of the A 1 north there are no public facilities at all for mile after mile without leaving the road and often not even then. You may even find the frustrating and yes distressful situation of following an old sign saying pubic toilets to find they have been closed down not only wasting your time and petrol but adding to the misery as you then have to look elsewhere.
Shame on the lot of you, the council, shops, tax offices and other public places, you have no decency to provide a basic amenity yet are quite happy to charge high for your commodities or demand our attendance such as at the job centre or tax office. Seeing people urinate in the street is one of the most shocking of things in the sixth richest country in the world. It really shouldn’t be necessary, because even today we are still one of the most successful economies in the world.
Frankly what with one thing and another the UK is a miserable place to live these days for just about everyone in one way or another.
Action to Take
Right now there are no petitions though there have been in the past with it seems little sucesses. it might be an idea to write to your MP:
Or your local council or even the council of a town city or village that you have visited and been inconvenienced by lack of toilet facilities:
We all pay council tax these days, even those who can barely afford to eat or heat their homes and pay their rent, there are few exemptions thanks to the Tory’s welfare reforms. Council tax is high, we at least want what we pay for, a basic and fundamental need – a public toilet. A clean and hygienic toilet not the filthy sinking germ ridden toilets that one is often faced with.
Or write to shops that do not have customer toilets such as Lidel.
I can’t provide a comprehensive list. It is easy enough to select a shop and find the contact details by using your favourite search engine.