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Keywords:

  • incontinence;
  • promotion of continence;
  • urinary incontinence;
  • prevalence;
  • clinical guidelines;
  • consensus conference

A project was undertaken as part of the NHS Executive Strategy for Major Clinical Guidelines, involving the development of national clinical guidelines for the promotion and management of continence by primary health care teams, through the process of managed consensus based on scientific review. The guidelines were then implemented at one urban general practice. This article outlines the development and implementation of the guidelines and describes the study undertaken to evaluate the impact of implementation on clinical outcomes. The study involved a pre-and post-implementation postal survey of a random sample of 17% of patients aged 18 years and over from the practice (n=1503). The pre-implementation survey determined the period prevalence of incontinence, related biological data and data on the pre-implementation management of incontinence. Incontinence sufferers were invited to have their condition assessed or reviewed. All sufferers who agreed to be followed-up were sent the post-implementation survey, which identified those patients who had sought help, and ascertained reasons for not seeking help. Data on the management of incontinence post-implementation were also obtained. Clinical outcomes measured pre- and post-implementation were a validated severity index for urinary incontinence, (also adapted for faecal incontinence) and perception of the incontinence as a problem. A 3-month period was allowed between pre- and post-implementation surveys. The study confirmed previous research which showed that few incontinence sufferers respond to invitations to seek help, and that help-seeking behaviour was significantly related to severity of incontinence. The guidelines did not have any positive impact on the clinical outcomes measured, although slight improvements in approaches taken by the primary health care team to the promotion and management of continence were recorded. However, the study was limited by the small sample size and short time scale. Further evaluation of the impact of the guidelines on these outcomes is therefore recommended.