Social Justice

A disabled woman has been left without a toilet or shower for months by her healthcare provider

"If there was nobody else here, then it would just be impossible. I wonder how many people are in the same situation"

Faith/ disabled/ hoist

Faith Martin, 21, has felt "embarrassed" by the situation. Image: Supplied

A disabled woman says she has been deprived of her human rights after having to endure four months without a shower or toilet while waiting for a bathroom hoist to be fitted.

Faith Martin, a 21-year-old with cerebral palsy, needs a hoist to lift herself off her wheelchair onto the toilet and get into the shower at her home in Portsmouth. She can’t walk, so the only way out of the chair is by using the hoist.

“I don’t have any access to a toilet or shower,” she said. “At the minute, I’m using a commode in my bedroom because it’s the only place I have a hoist in the house. And I’m basically washing out the sink because I can’t get into the shower.”

The hoist is paid for by the NHS but provided by company NRS Healthcare. Technicians have visited the house for pricing quotes, but it was not until after The Big Issue contacted the company and Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning group that a date was arranged for the hoist to be fitted. 

A spokesperson from Portsmouth City Council apologised for the delay and said it had “intended to have the hoist installed sooner but staff sickness meant there was no one available to visit the property until now”. The hoist is expected to be fitted later this week.

But it’s long overdue for Martin, who has had to endure months without use of her bathroom. “It’s a bit embarrassing. I shower every day but I can’t do that now and I’m not as clean as I would like to be. Washing out of a sink for a week at best wouldn’t be ideal, but it’s fine. 

“Four months is a lot, and it’s physically challenging. I’m trying not to get my wheelchair wet at the same time because it’s electric.”

She washes her hair by leaning over the sink, which is physically challenging in her wheelchair. And she uses the commode in her bedroom, where she also eats.

Martin is not alone. Many disabled people face long waiting lists, sacrificing their independence and dignity as they wait for their homes to be adapted to meet their needs.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed last year that in nine council areas in England and Wales, people had to wait an average of more than a year to see an occupational therapist and complete the pre-application steps for home adaptation.

Many are turning to crowdfunding to raise the tens of thousands of pounds needed to make their properties accessible. Just 9 per cent of homes in England provide even the most basic accessibility features, according to government data published in 2020. Only 7 per cent have an adapted bathroom and just 0.4 per cent have hoists.

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

Martin said that in the past her broken hoist has been treated as an emergency and fitted within a day or two. She has not been told why it has taken so long this time – although representatives told The Big Issue it is a result of staff sickness.

“All I keep hearing is ‘pricing, pricing, pricing,’” she said. Martin has been made a high-priority case, but she has seen little evidence of the healthcare provider acting on this. 

“I’m lucky my dad is here,” she said, “so if anything drastic happens, there is someone to help. But if I was living on my own that would be a nightmare. I can’t move the commode underneath the hoist when I need the toilet. 

“My dad has to do that. If there was nobody else here, then it would just be impossible. I wonder how many people are in the same situation.”

“Basic hygiene is a human right,” Martin said. “And I don’t have that. I don’t have access to a toilet.”

If you have experienced similar problems, email isabella.mcrae@bigissue.com

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'
dwp pip/ disabled person
Disability benefits

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP
dwp jobcentre
Department for Work and Pensions

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP

The UK used to be the most LGBTQ-friendly place in Europe. Now, it's not even close
LGBTQ+ rights

The UK used to be the most LGBTQ-friendly place in Europe. Now, it's not even close

'We're at breaking point': Food banks see record number of first-time users as demand soars
food bank
Food banks

'We're at breaking point': Food banks see record number of first-time users as demand soars

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know