How to order ostomy supplies in the UK
Obtaining and ordering stoma supplies will vary according to which country you are in, so this blog is only relevant to the United Kingdom, but I would love to hear how other countries operate …. If you would like to, why not use the reply function at the bottom of this page and share?
In the United Kingdom we have “The National Health Service” – this basically offers free medical treatment for any UK citizen – the treatment can range from a visit to A&E for a broken finger, to a full blow multiple organ transplant! – This is funded by all tax paying people in the form of a “National Insurance Stamp” – in essence a form of extra tax.
Prescription costs are also subsidised by the NHS – so if we need medical supplies (drugs or equipment), then we currently pay a flat fee per item – sometimes though it is cheaper to buy “over the counter” drugs.
Stoma supplies are very expensive – the stoma bags I use are £96 for 30 – currently I would only be expected to pay £8.60 instead. People though with a “permanent fissure” are exempt from all charges, which means that in my case, I do not have to pay a single penny for any medical supplies I may need – ever.
In the UK we have several ways of obtaining stoma supplies – these include either picking them up from a local pharmacist, or having them delivered to your home/workplace by a delivery company.
• Online delivery company – all have an “online portal”, so you can either log into their website and order what you need, or you can call them on the telephone and order. They will then contact your doctor to request a prescription. This is returned electronically, and the supplies are released for delivery to your home the next day. The company will always text or email you to say supplies are expected for delivery the next day.
• Pharmacist ordering – this again should be easy. Most UK surgeries belong to a system called EMIS. This allows you to contact your surgery electronically via an app on your mobile where you can request supplies. Once approved by your doctor, they will issue an electronic prescription directly to your nominated chemist. You can then pick up supplies from them a few days later – some chemists are now starting to offer home delivery.
There are good and bad points for both … for example …
• Online Delivery companies – the delivery postal carrier may not leave your parcel in a “safe place”, meaning that you may need to sign for it upon delivery – not very convenient when you are at work! (unless you opt as I do to have them delivered there) – however, this process can be very handy for some … no more struggling home from the local chemist overladen with boxes! The delivery companies will ensure that the stoma bags are cut to your correct size.
• Pharmacist ordering – the biggest disadvantage with this is that there can be a long delay before you receive supplies – for example, your doctor may take a while to physically send the prescription to the chemist which will then have to order the supplies in for you (as stoma products are not “off the shelf items”). Only larger chemists will text you to inform you that the supplies are ready to be picked up, meaning there could be a couple of wasted trips.
There are a lot of stoma delivery companies that all offer the same stoma items, but the range of complimentary items they also offer will range from company to company. These are all designed to retain your custom in a competitive market. All companies will supply disposable waste bags, but some will also offer dry wipes, hand gel, mattress covers, wet wipes and so on.
For me, I have stuck with the same company for ten years now – yes, I can probably get a wider range of “free stuff” by swapping companies, but in reality, the company I use have never given me any reason to swap – they have always been polite, helpful and always available to talk to.
Supposing though that you need to speak to a stoma nurse … if you order online, how can you do that?
Most (but not all) stoma companies have a stoma nurse who is available via call or email so you can ask advice. This is not though the same as a “face to face” meeting, and in which case, assuming you are able to travel, visiting a stoma nurse at your local hospital is your best option.
I visited mine not so long ago because my stoma was hurting a lot – Cathy (the stoma nurse) immediately diagnosed a parastomal hernia (which was confirmed by my doctor) – this sort of help would not be available by an “online nurse”. I would not discount this type of nurse though – they are fully qualified and are an excellent source of help, advice and information.
There is an NHS website detailing how to contact a stoma nurse – visit here.
It’s all a matter of personal preference – I would advise speaking initially to your delivery company first and asking if they offer such a service. If they do, then you have nothing to lose by calling the nurse, and then forming your own opinion. Maybe you need to ask advice about sore skin around the stoma, and what products she can recommend to help clear it up – remember that “online stoma nurses” are employed by the delivery firm and so may not remain impartial to a rival companies products.
The stoma nurse at your local hospital, whilst very helpful will inevitably be very busy, so you may need an appointment to see them.
I’ve not personally used an “online nurse”, but I have no doubt I will at some stage – after all, there is no reason not to. I just prefer the personal touch offered by my local hospital.
As us British say ….. “it’s all horses for courses!”