As COVID-19 crept across our shores and lockdowns followed, a typical scenario was the panic buying seen in Australian supermarkets. Whilst toilet paper was in high demand, spare a thought for those who also had trouble accessing essential continence products. Living with incontinence is already challenging without the fear of not being able to access the right products, such as continence pads and pants.

During this time, the National Continence Helpline (NCHL) received numerous calls from concerned individuals who were struggling to access their preferred continence products. In response to these concerns, the Foundation wanted to investigate the situation further and provide alternatives and support. From 25 May to 30 November 2020, the Foundation conducted a survey of all callers to the NCHL who described challenges with getting their continence products due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

The results from this survey, enabled the NCHL to provide support and direction to callers experiencing increased concern and anxiety over access to their continence products. The Foundation and the NCHL were also able to provide information on other sources, options and alternative suppliers of continence products.

The National Continence Helpline (NCHL) is a free telephone service that offers confidential information, advice, and support to people affected by incontinence. It is staffed by Nurse Continence Specialists and operates from Monday to Friday 8am-8pm AEST.  Please call the NCHL on 1800 33 00 66.

impact of covid on product suppliesCallers were asked the following questions:

  • Who was their usual supplier of continence products?
  • Did they have to change their usual supplier because of COVID-19?
  • Had the restrictions or limits placed on incontinence products caused them extra problems?


During the survey period, 764 responses were collected. In total, 75% of callers relied on supermarkets and/or pharmacies as their usual supplier for continence products, as follows:

  • 54% Local supermarket
  • 10% Assisted by Family or Friend
  • 37% Online ordering
  • 2% Pharmacies
  • 31% Pharmacies

Nationally, 15% of callers had to find a different supermarket to the one they usually relied upon for their regular continence supplies, 6% had to find another pharmacy and 2% had to use a different online service.

The personal impact of restricted access to continence products cannot be underestimated. It was found that:

  • 26% Had increased concerns/anxiety about access to continence products
  • 8% Had to change their continence products
  • 19% more often to get their continence products
  • 6% Needed to rely more on others   to get their continence products
  • 39% Could not get the continence products they needed

Get Support 

Phone the free National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 to speak to a nurse continence specialist about bladder and bowel health. 

This story was first published in Bridge Magazine. Subscribe and receive Bridge straight to your inbox.