Women’s health tsar to be appointed to tackle gender health gap in England

Over eight in 10 women feel they are not listened to by healthcare professionals

Holly Bancroft
Thursday 23 December 2021 10:21
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<p>The government have published their vision for the women’s health strategy, which will be finalised in Spring 2022.  </p>

The government have published their vision for the women’s health strategy, which will be finalised in Spring 2022.

A women’s health ambassador will be appointed to help “reset the dial” on decades of gender health inequality in England.

The Department for Health and Social Care published its Vision for Women’s Health strategy on Thursday, after considering almost 100,000 responses to a call for evidence.

Key findings from the consultation included the revelation that over eight in 10 women feel that they are not listened to by healthcare professionals.

Women also asked for compulsory training for GPs on women’s health issues, including menopause.

Alongside the release of the report, the government has announced that they will appoint a Women’s Health Ambassador “who will raise the profile of women’s health, increase awareness about taboo topics and support the government in implementing the strategy”.

The strategy report also found that harmful taboos and stigmas around some women’s health topics are preventing women from seeking help and reinforcing “beliefs that debilitating symptoms are ‘normal’”.

More than half of respondents to the consultation said that they felt uncomfortable talking about health issues at work.

Minister for women’s health, Maria Caulfield MP, said the responses were “in many ways as expected” and said “it is not right that over three-quarters of women feel the healthcare service has not listened. This must be addressed.”

The final plan - the Women’s Health Strategy - will be published in spring 2022.

On Wednesday night, ministers pledged to introduce legislation to criminalise hymenoplasty or any procedures that rebuild or repair the hymen.

The surgery is sometimes carried out for religious and cultural reasons and is driven by a demand for young women to prove they are “pure” on their wedding night. The surgery creates scar tissue so that the woman will bleed the next time she has intercourse, giving the appearance that she has never had sex.

Ministers will also set up a UK-wide menopause taskforce to consider how women experiencing it can be better supported.

The cost of hormone replacement therapy prescriptions will also be cut by implementing longer prescribing cycles. This will mean women will need fewer prescription cycles and will therefore be able to pay less.

Minister for women’s health, Maria Caulfield MP, said: “Many of the issues raised require long-term system wide changes, but we must start somewhere. I am proud to publish our vision for women’s health. It is the first step to realising our ambition of a healthcare system which supports women’s needs throughout their lives.”

Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director at CREATE Fertility, said that the results of the consultation “show unequivocally that our healthcare system needs more support for women’s reproductive health”.

She added: “Across every age group women face hurdles in accessing the medical care or information they need.”

She also called for a focus on the health conditions affecting “BAME women who have historically struggled to access support”.

Mika Simmons, co-chair of the Ginsburg Women’s health board, said: “Women’s health care has been side-lined for far too long and a seismic shift now needs to happen, to correct the historical lack of efficient care.”

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