On January 11th 1989 a small group of people met in St Pancras Hospital, London. Six were people with continence problems, two were informal carers, and eight were healthcare professionals and one a representative of the continence care industry. Three aims were suggested for the group: provide practical advice and support for patients, create a wider awareness of the problem, and campaign for more recognition and adequate services. National Action on Incontinence (NAOI) was born.

The organisation was run from dining room tables using borrowed ¬†word processors. Initial support from the continence care industry allowed NAOI to employ an administrator to deal with the slowly increasing stream of enquiries from the public and health professionals. 1992 saw the appointment of Incontact’s first Development Officer with permanent, if still borrowed, office space. The first, tentative steps to providing local support groups were taken and NAOI renamed themselves Incontact.

The first issue of a quarterly newsletter, the forerunner to the Incontact magazine, was published in 1993, followed by information leaflets Adult Bedwetting and Travel with Confidence. Incontact took a key role in developing the newly created Continence Foundation charity, ensuring that the national helpline initially supported by Incontact had security of funding, and that the first National Continence Awareness Week reflected the consumer’s perspective.

Subsequent years saw Incontact consolidate its ability to deliver much needed services. In 1995 the Department of Health provided three years’ funding for an Education Officer. A year later, the National Lottery Charities Board provided a grant for a part-time Development Officer to enable Incontact to deal effectively with the mounting demands being placed on the organisation. The number of local support groups and helplines grew slowly but steadily as did the membership.

Increasingly, companies involved with continence care were interested in Incontact’s activities. Sponsorship of leaflets and the quarterly magazine, advertising and a new Corporate Membership scheme gave Incontact an increasingly stable financial footing. This was taken one step further in 1998 with the introduction of ‘Key Supporter’ status, allowing companies a closer working link with Incontact, and providing the organisation with much needed funds for its core administrative functions. An Administrator – Incontact’s first full-time member of staff – was employed in 1999.

Increasing funding in this way enabled Incontact to raise awareness of its services though networking with other patient and professional organisations, attendance at conferences and exhibitions, working with health and mainstream media, and developing a wider distribution of literature. The publication of a new booklet in 1999, Bladder and Bowel Problems, gave added impetus.

As workloads increased, bringing new challenges the trustees decided that a more systematic and strategic approach was needed. In December 1999 Incontact appointed its first Executive Director, whose role was to develop the organisation’s capability to achieve its stated mission, little changed from those first aims discussed back in 1989.

After much discussion and member consultation, Incontact became a charitable company – registered both with Companies House and the Charity Commission – in February 2001. This status allowed the organisation to continue to benefit from charitable status, whilst also giving it a legal entity of its own.

Incontact employed four full-time staff and had 18,000 people registered on its database, making it the largest membership charity in this sector. Additionally, Incontact had many unpaid volunteers who supported the charity on various committees and via the running of 18 community groups.

Over the years grants were received from The Big Lottery, the Department of Health, Lloyds TSB Foundation, Medtronic Foundation and the King’s Fund.

Incontact was well established and respected for its unbiased opinion by both consumers and healthcare professionals alike. The charity dealt with more than 20,000 requests for help per year and the website received 20,000 visitors per month. Incontact worked closely with European working groups to ensure they continued to bring the issues of bladder and bowel problems out into the open both in the UK and abroad, whilst encouraging consumers to seek appropriate treatment, and provide the much needed support that statutory services often could not deliver.

Formation of the Bladder and Bowel Foundation June 2008

This new charity was officially formed in June 2008 and launched on 15 September 2008. It incorporates the objectives and missions of two charities, Incontact and the Continence Foundation, which closed in May 2008.

The Bladder and Bowel Foundation (B&BF) is now the UK’s largest, non-profit making, advocacy charity providing help, information and support for people with bladder and bowel problems.

Our overall mission has changed little from that of Incontact – to bring about changes that will help improve the lives of those living with bladder and bowel problems. The charity’s mission is to inspire change and create opportunities to enable people with bladder and bowel control problems have a voice and equal choice.

B&BF will actively seek to achieve this by:-

* Raising awareness of bladder and bowel control problems amongst the general public and healthcare professionals.

* Giving access to information and support regarding the treatments, products and services for people with these conditions.

The charity believes in listening to the needs of people affected by bladder and bowel disorders and provides advice and support to patients by means of the helpline, which is manned or operated by specialist continence nurses and physiotherapists.
B&BF works in partnership with other charities and professional organisations in the field to ensure that everyone who needs help and support gets free access to all the services that are available. The charity also provides information and support regarding treatments, products and clinical services in such a way that people with these conditions are then able to make an educated and informed choice.

B&BF works with researchers to improve treatments and design innovative products for bladder and bowel disorders. The charity speaks on behalf of those affected and those close to them in order to influence policy makers and service providers in both the private and public sectors.

B&BF also works closely with healthcare professionals, providing information and support materials for patients to improve standards of diagnosis, management and care. We believe all patients should get effective modern help, which will enable them to enjoy a greater quality of life.