Between March and June 2021, 100,000 people and 400 organisations responded to give evidence in areas where improvement was needed to address the health of women and girls. The Women’s Health Strategy for England has a challenging set of promises.

We have written previously about how women get treated differently to men with regard to diagnoses and healthcare (Brenda Gilligan  28 May 2020) and finally the government seem to be taking notice.  It has announced its commitment to improvements in healthcare for women.

The problem women have is that many of their issues are not illness or injuries in themselves, but their consequences can be painful or restrictive.  For instance, periods are a perfectly natural part of life as a female, unless you have a condition which prevents them, but they can be extremely painful and cause women to have to have regular days off to deal with them.  Many women prefer to take this time as holiday rather than get a “reputation” for taking sick days.

Similarly with life events such as the menopause, pregnancy and childbirth and gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, which can go undiagnosed for years .  Not in themselves illnesses, but can have their own specific problems which can impinge on everyday life for women.

They are things which are often not spoken about publicly and which many find difficult and uncomfortable to talk about in the workplace. Thus many struggle to work and are not at their best when they do get in, when really, sometimes just small adjustments would go some way to alleviating the problem, even if it can’t be eradicated altogether.

A lot of women feel that women are given a low priority in the supply of services especially for women.  They find that “taboos” and stigma stop them seeking help; a feeling they will be told it’s all just stress, or their “nerves”; “time of the month”; “hormones” or even just in their minds.  They will be told to lose weight, to take more care of their mental health, to just take a few days off. But of course many women -and indeed men, were they give the same advice- just can’t do this.  So they often don’t bother and just carry on as best they can. The sadness is that sometimes a simple solution would provide relief, but if women can’t or don’t access the services, they can’t get that relief. This came across from the research and survey.

The government’s goals now seem to include:

  • Creating a menopause investigative team, to find out how best to support women enduring it
  • To ensure women feel free to discuss their health and to work to remove taboos
  • To provide access to information regarding healthcare options
  • To ensure a collection of demographic data is regularly compiled
  • To protect women and girls, the document sets out a plan to introduce legislation to ban hymenoplasty (hymen restoration surgery)

In addition, the government will appoint a Women’s Health Ambassador to:

  • Maintain the importance of women’s health
  • Decrease the power of health taboos
  • To encourage the government in its work regarding the health of women and girls

Women who work in healthcare support the initiative.

Maria Caulfield, Minister for Women’s Health said:

“It is not right that over three-quarters of women feel the healthcare service has not listened. This must be addressed. Many of the issues raised require long-term system-wide changes, but we must start somewhere”

Professor Geeta Nargund, senior NHS consultant amongst other illustrious posts said:

“The results of this consultation show unequivocally that our healthcare system needs more support for women’s reproductive health and that, across every age group, women face hurdles in accessing the medical care or information they need”

She also stressed the need to take into account health conditions and problems which can specifically affect ethnic groups, fertility issues and to accelerate referrals for gynaecological conditions. To that we would also add trans-gender and gender fluid groups where they too are affected.

Women do not want to come across as needing to be handled with kid gloves because of being women.  But there is no getting away from the fact that there are some conditions which will only affect women by virtue of being women and we can’t change that. We just want a recognition of that with access to swift and reliable health care so we can address the issues and make them less intrusive in our day to day lives.

We can help

If you have any queries about possible medical negligence for misdiagnosis or delay in treatment,  contact one of our specialist team on 01522 561020 or email wecanhelp@ringroselaw.co.uk

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