Constipation caused thousands of hospital admissions at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust last year, figures reveal.
New research has found the public’s idea of how to identify the problem differs significantly from that of doctors, meaning many people are missing out on help they need.
New NHS data shows there were 2,350 hospital admissions for constipation at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust in 2017-18.
It was the primary reason for admission on 595 occasions, and a secondary diagnosis for 1,755.
In a recent study, researchers at King’s College London found almost a third of patients who were clinically constipated did not recognise it.
It also showed that less than a third of people thought infrequent bowel movements were an important sign of being blocked up, compared to 41 per cent of GPs and around 65 per cent of specialist doctors.
Dr Eirini Dimidi, lead author of the study, said: “Accurately identifying a condition is at the root of good care.
“Currently prescription medication for constipation fails in nearly 60 per cent of patients and almost half report not being satisfied with their treatment.”
She added that the findings showed a need for the way constipation is diagnosed to be refined.
The researchers said six key symptoms should be used to spot constipation:
o Stomach discomfort, pain and bloating
o Rectal discomfort
o Infrequent bowel movements and hard stools
o Sensory dysfunction (not having the urge to go or not feeling relieved after having done so)
o Bad wind and bloating
o Faecal incontinence
Across England, there were almost 300,000 hospital admissions for constipation in 2017-18.
Of these, 68,000 were a primary diagnosis, and 230,000 were as a secondary diagnosis.
The NHS says constipation has a variety of causes, including diet, not drinking enough fluids, lack of exercise and stress.
It recommends eating more fibre, drinking more but avoiding alcohol, and being more active, as ways of encouraging bowel movement.
An NHS spokesperson said: “Day or night, there are plenty of ways the NHS can help for any illness or problem, and our Long Term Plan will make getting help even more convenient.
“Evening and weekend GP appointments are now available across the country, while pharmacists are trained medical professionals and can advise on a range of minor illnesses out of hours, and if you’re not sure what service you need, NHS 111 is available by phone and online 24 hours a day.”