Free tampons and other sanitary products will be offered to every hospital patient who needs them in England, health leaders have announced.
NHS England on Sunday said all women and girls being cared for by the health service will be able to ask for appropriate sanitary products free of charge from this summer.
The move means women and girls receiving treatment in hospitals and other health settings will be able to request pads, pantyliners and tampons when they need them.
The announcement follows leading doctors writing to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens last month demanding that hospitals provide inpatients with free sanitary towels and tampons.
The British Medical Association (BMA) argued that it was inconsistent for some hospitals to give out razors and shaving foam, but not offer women sanitary products.
Stevens said it was “absolutely right” everyone had access to the essentials of daily life including sanitary products during their time in hospital.
He added: “It’s fundamental that we give patients the best experience possible during what can be a stressful time of their life, and by providing sanitary products the NHS can prevent unnecessary embarrassment and leave people to focus on their recovery.”
As well as offering reassurance to anyone needing urgent care unexpectedly, the move also will help those who are in hospital long term such as mental health inpatients, NHS England said.
While some hospitals already provide sanitary products, NHS England said it will now be mandated in the new standard contract with hospitals for 2019-20.
Dame Parveen Kumar, chairwoman of the BMA’s Board of Science, welcomed the move which she said will come as a relief for many patients.
She said BMA research had shown how “patchy or non-existent” the provision was as well as the “relatively small cost” of providing tampons and pads free of charge.
Dame Parveen added: “We are pleased that our work, since then, with NHS England has culminated in such a successful result for women, bringing an end to indignity on top of ill-health.
“As well being an important influence in the shift that is necessary towards ending period poverty, this will be a relief for many patients who will no longer face the embarrassment and stress of not being able to freely and easily access sanitary pads and tampons.”
The announcement was also welcomed by the charity Freedom4Girls, which campaigns against period poverty.
A survey published in February revealed more than a quarter of females have missed either work or school because of period poverty.
Freedom4Girls founder Tina Leslie said: “This is a great initiative and is a fantastic step forward.
“NHS England have stepped up to the mark and been proactive in ensuring that hospital patients get tampons and sanitary towels.”