There are quite a few things you need to think about once you have made the decision to try and get nappies for your child given to you by the NHS. Every Primary Care Trust (PCT) in the country has its own guidelines they need to follow, and you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that your child may not qualify at the time you ask for help.
The first thing you will need to do is have a meeting with some of your local healthcare professionals. A good place to start is your GP, Health Visitor or Pediatrician, who can give you a referral to your local district nurse or a continence advisor. These are specialist nurses who are experts in continence. Sometimes you might be able to get an appointment at an NHS continence service to see a continence advisor without a referral.
One of these criteria is the age of your child, and they will usually need to be above a certain age before they can even be considered for free nappies. This age changes from place to place but is usually 4 & above in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately we are hearing more and more about health trusts raising their age limit to 5 when it had been lower before.
Sometimes your child might need to be receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to get nappies for free, and in some cases your local trust may not have any scheme set up for free nappies; instead they can help you with treatment and potty training or can advise you on where are the best places to buy nappies privately.
Living in an area with a complete lack of a scheme is rare, but be aware that wherever you are you will more than likely find quite harsh restrictions on the number of free nappies you can get. This once again varies depending on where you live and on the needs of your child (such as if they only have accidents at night or in the day) but you can probably only expect at maximum an average of 4 or 5 nappies per day.
You will have little or no choice in the brand of nappy you can get and they are often clearly the cheaper type of product. Since the nappies are free a lot of people are happy to receive any help they can get but this can cause problems if, for instance, your child has an allergy which is triggered by the nappy. We have heard of cases where this has happened, and although it is possible to get a different product as a replacement, if this different nappy is more expensive they will be more strictly rationed.
Some trusts are faster than others at getting all the referrals and assessments together. The typical amount of time you might have to wait is probably around 3 months from making contact with your doctor to getting your first shipment. It can be faster.
In some cases the criteria are very strict and you might be denied help or find that the products supplied are not good enough. You can attempt to fight this but very often they won’t change their position.