Don’t Pull the Red Cord it’s for the Warden!

I’m sure many of you will have enjoyed a giggle at this famous Peter Kaye line about his Nan who lives in a warden aided complex with red emergency cords installed both in her kitchen and in her bathroom (which interestingly, Peter describes as being ‘tied up’.)

Whilst visiting his Nan one day Peter accidently pulls the red emergency cord in the kitchen mistaking it for the ‘big light’ and his Nan shouts at him, “Don’t pull the red cord, it’s for the Warden!”. Peter then proceeds to smooth over the situation with Dougie, the warden, who is 14 miles away doing a word search!

But, joking apart, red cords are serious business and can help to save lives. I recently learned all about the challenges faced by disabled people visiting disabled loos from listening to a Jeremy Vine phone in, and I must confess that even though I work in the industry I had never considered this as an issue. However, it has really sparked my interest in getting involved in a great national campaign and helping to make a difference to the safety of disabled people using accessible toilets nationwide.

Disabled toilets are often frequented by able bodied people, cleaners and parents using baby change tables and the red cords, which are there to provide a lifeline to allow disabled people to call for help in an emergency, are moved to allow the floor to be mopped or be tucked out of reach of children’s hands. Often the pull cord is tied out of the way, tied up, hidden behind a grab bar or viewed as a ‘nuisance’ to those unaware of its function.

There is even been a British Standard to regulate this – British Standard BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 states: ‘the red emergency cord should hang freely all the way to the floor’

An accessible toilet with the red cord free and touching the floor.

Christophe Andrats, a member of the RicaWatch consumer research panel, is a 57 year old retired IT consultant with three pet rats and has Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.

He has written reviews about accessible toilets and has encountered a staggering statistic:

‘In over 90% of accessible toilets I’ve used, the red cord has been tied up several feet above floor level which will be out of reach by someone who’s fallen’

And he asks the questions

‘Why do people tie up the red emergency cord with knots pulled impossibly tight to untie? The cord is there for a reason.

Why? So if I fall out of my wheelchair I can reach it. People seem to think:

  • Well clearly this toilet cord is ridiculously long! I’ll tie a knot in it!
  • How wasteful! I’ll shorten it with my scissors
  • How unsightly! It’ll be a relief just to tidy it out of the way.

This drives me potty. If I were to slip or fall whilst alighting my throne ie transferring from my wheelchair and was unable to get help promptly using the red emergency cord, or if I had a serious injury such as:

  • a broken rib puncturing a lung
  • a bleeding leg with a broken bone sticking out of it
  • the consequences could be dire:

My life could be in danger.

Christopher helps us to realise how this situation can be very challenging and dangerous for a person with a disability needing to use the toilet.

So National Access Charity, Euan’s Guide, has launched a campaign to inform and educate the general public regarding the importance of red cords hanging down fully to the floors of disabled toilets. They have devised a red cord card and have set an impressive target to try and ensure that every disabled toilet in the UK has a red cord card in it by the 19th November which is a significant date in the diary because it happens to be World Toilet Day ……. who knew?

So what actually is a red cord card?

Red cord cards are pocket sized notices that raise awareness of safety in accessible toilets.

The text on each card reads, “this red emergency cord must hang freely all the way to the floor, if it does not, it may prevent a disabled person from asking for help.”

The cards are splash proof to protect them from sinks, designed to easily slide onto emergency cords without setting off the alarm and printed in an easy to read font. It is important to raise awareness until everybody understands why emergency red cords must reach all the way to the floor and Euan’s Guide have produced these red cord cards and you can request them and hang them wherever you spot an emergency cord, good or bad and by spreading the word on social media using #redcordcard and #setthecordsfree.

40,000 cards have already been requested and there are already thousands of red cord cards raising awareness all over the UK.

Euan McDonald who is co-founder of Euan Guides says, “We want a red cord card in every accessible toilet in the UK. If the cord is tied up, wound around grab rails or cut short it prevents a disabled person calling for help. Please free the cords when you see them tied up and place a Euan’s Guide Red Cord Card on them. It may seem like a small thing, but it is often the small things in life that make things so much easier for disabled people.”

So this also got me thinking about disabled toilets in care homes and what processes may be in place to ensure that your red cords are always hanging free. Is it part of your cleaning schedule so that the cleaners when they clean the toilets, tick to say that the red cords has been left free hanging down to the floor? Is it considered an infection control risk or trip hazard having a cord hanging and touching the floor. Do your staff and visitors need informing and educating about this important and relevant issue?

What can you do to help improve safety in this area and potentially reduce the risk of falls and accidents in disabled toilet areas?

Well you can do the following:

Order quantities of red cord cards at

Like me you can take cards out with you when visiting public places with disabled facilities, and you can take a quick peek into the loos and follow these 3 simple rules, (thanks to Jennie Berry, a wheelchair user and passionate red cord card advocate on Instagram, @wheelie_good_life)

  • Red cords should NEVER be tied up. If they are it defeats the object of the cord being there in the first place. A red cord could potentially save someone’s’ life if it is hanging as close to the floor as possible (ie in reaching distance)
  • If you see one tied up always UNTIE it and inform the manager of the establishment not only that you have untied it, but WHY you have done it.
  • Attach a red cord card onto the red cord, whether it was a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cord, to spread the word and educate others of their importance and why not to tie them up.
  • Then take a selfie, like mine 🙂 of you, in the toilet, with your red cord cards in situ and email us at telling us where you were so we can share your lovely pics on social media to raise more awareness.

So apply for your red cord cards TODAY at

Help us to start making a difference and make every disabled toilet safer for all.

Hcsuk Managing Director, Jo Bonser, displays the first of the Red Cord cards we’ve fitted in an accessible toilet.




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Customer Testimonials

“We’ve built a strong working relationship with Hcsuk over many years, having used them to source, install and service our medical training equipment. We have always found the team very professional, helpful, and well-organised. We’d like to give a particular shout out to Phil, the technician / engineer who has been the consistent friendly face visiting our business to inspect and test our mobility hoists every 6 months. Thank you for all your support and advice.”

P. B. (Care Manager), Blue Bird Care Ltd

You are part of a great company, if we can help you grow by contracting you out to our sites its good for you, but it’s great for us because your service is fantastic, very efficient, everyone within Hcsuk is super helpful in answering queries and every time we’ve had an issue, Hcsuk has always been there to solve the problem almost immediately, which is fantastic.

Leicestershire County Council

Truly exceptional levels of customer service, the best I have experienced for many years. Very helpful staff made follow up calls to ask how the equipment was performing and supplied extra user instructions to supplement the manufacturers manual. I would not hesitate to order from this company again.

Savills Estate Agents

We would just like to pass on our thanks for all of your help with our orders and would be pleased if you would also pass on our thanks to the manufacturers for being so accommodating in meeting our requirements. We have found everyone very helpful.

Lincs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Since I set up the account for Hcsuk over 18 months ago I have found them to be an excellent advocate of our products. They have been willing to learn about the technical and servicing elements to our hoists and the sales staff have really taken on board and proactively promoted our range where possible. I feel that as a company Hcsuk have got the desire and right people in place for growing in this competitive industry. They seem to push themselves to go that little bit further and offer that little bit more to stand out from the rest. May our relationship continue going from strength to strength.

Joerns Healthcare

As a care home manager I have used Hcsuk for my supplies for the last 20 years in two homes. I have always found them to be helpful and reliable. Their products are of the highest standards, they are able to source anything. The delivery service is prompt and regular so I do not have to keep large amounts of stock. They supply extra services such as servicing and repairs which are done efficiently, and training in COSHH. The reps are pleasant and helpful bringing new products to my attention but are never ”pushy”. Aftercare is good, any problems soon sorted. I would recommend them highly and would not think of using anyone else.

Littleover Nursing Home

HPC have supplied Hcsuk (Health Care Services Ltd) for well over a decade now and we would consider them to be a high quality and professional business run in an organised and progressive manor. We do not rank our customers or have a preferred customer status but if we were to introduce such a scheme I can confirm that Hcsuk would easily make such a grade.

HPC Healthline

As a manufacturer we look for key values in a distributor some of these include honesty, reliability, commitment and reputation. Hcsuk carry all of these and many more. With a twenty plus year working relationship we now place Jo and the team at the top of our distributor list. I have no hesitation in recommending Hcsuk to any prospective manufacturer or customer and wish Jo and the team all the best for the future.

Cleenol Group Ltd

It is brilliant that we are able to ring Health Care Services and that you will go the extra mile to get us the stock we need as soon as possible.

Rykneld View Nursing Home

Just to say a huge thankyou to you and your fantastic team, and I mean that from the Heart. I have never before experienced such a person centred company.

Hampton Grange Nursing Home

What I like about working with Health Care Services is the relationship we have built up and the personal service. The homes report that you always deliver on time, the quality is consistantly good and the prices competitive. Your team members are always willing to go that extra mile for us and if ever we have an issue there is always someone there to save the day.

Eastgate Care

VAT Relief Information

Conditions for VAT relief for disabled people

Some of the products which can be purchased from the Hcsuk website are available for an eligible person to purchase without paying VAT on them. HM Revenue and Customs sets out the conditions when equipment for disabled people might be free of VAT and how to claim exemption from paying VAT on these products.

Products a can only be exempt from VAT when all the following conditions are met:

  1. The customer is eligible to purchase supplies at the zero rate
  2. The goods are for the personal or domestic use of the customer
  3. The goods and services are eligible to be supplied at the zero rate

A more detailed explanation of each of these conditions is given below, but you should visit the HM Revenue and Customs Website to fully understand the conditions

The product must be being purchased for someone who is chronically ill or disabled.

A person is ‘chronically sick or disabled’ if he/she is a person:

It does not include a frail elderly person who is otherwise able-bodied or any person who is only temporarily disabled or incapacitated, such as with a broken limb.

‘personal or domestic’ use means that the supply must be made available specifically for the use of an eligible individual.

You don’t have to physically buy the goods in person. If your parent, guardian or wife or husband buys the goods and services for you, then you won’t be charged VAT.

What counts as personal or domestic use?

Personal or domestic use means that the goods or services are supplied for your own private use, rather than for business purposes. Also, the goods or services must be just for your own use – not for use by anyone else, or chronically sick or disabled people in general. However, if you and your partner are both chronically sick or disabled and you buy goods or services for both of you to use, then you won’t have to pay VAT.

Products which are offered for sale on this website which qualify for VAT relief to be claimed for an eligible person.

The products which can be bought without paying VAT are:

Only the products on our site carrying the VAT exemption price (the smaller price marked ex VAT) are eligible to be purchased this way and you must tick the box on the basket page indicating that you wish to claim VAT exemption on the items in your basket that are eligible for VAT relief.

How to claim

On the my basket page of this website a link to the online declaration form is provided if the basket contains a product that qualifies for VAT relief. You must tick the box to state you wish to claim VAT relief on the eligible product and complete in full the reason by which you are ‘chronically sick or disabled’ and name and address of the claimant. If possible the person making the claim should complete this form, but a family member, carer or medical professional may complete the form on the claimants behalf. To submit the claim and receive the VAT relief, click the ‘Submit VAT Relief Claim’ button before proceeding to the checkout.

Please note that all orders submitted with a VAT relief claim form completed are checked before the order is processed.

It is necessary to complete a separate claim form each time a qualifying product is purchased from Hcsuk.


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