England must “follow the lead” of Scotland and Wales and make Hormone Replacement Therapy exempt from NHS prescription charges, MPs have warned.
The majority of the 3.4 million women between 50 and 64 in the UK will be experiencing symptoms of the menopause – with these ranging from heart palpitations to hot flushes, vaginal pain, anxiety and depression.
Cross-party MPs are hoping to change rules around charging for Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which alleviates symptoms of the menopause, via a private members bill.
The legislation, introduced by Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP for Swansea East, also seeks to overhaul “menopause rights, entitlements and education”.
Ms Harris said: “For far too long, generation after generation of women have been let down, ignored or simply thrown on the scrap heap as a result of the menopause.
“Despite affecting more than half of the world’s population, menopause remains one of the last great taboos - badly funded and rarely discussed in public.
“It is also poorly understood: in the workplace, in society at large and far too often, even in the doctor's surgery. It is clear that we need both a step-change in attitudes, and a change in the law.”
The politician warned the issue transcends NHS charging and is rooted in “attitude and education” as she promised to usher in a “menopause revolution”. She explained an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), a group which includes MPs from a range of political parties, focused on the menopause had been set up.
Ms Harris, who will present the new legislation on Wednesday, added: “Our new APPG will be so important. This won’t be a talking shop - it will be a driving force for change. Our menopause inquiry will take in workplace policy, medical school training, public health messaging and school curriculums.
“If the menopause were an illness, or indeed a condition that impacted every man, it’s unlikely that financial support would be so woeful, or public understanding so negligible. Women have suffered long enough - I am determined to change that.”
Symptoms of menopause also include vaginal dryness, night sweats, insomnia, headaches, a reduced sex drive, recurrent urinary tract infections – as well as mood changes, feelings of sadness, difficulty concentrating and issues with memory.
Elizabeth Carr-Ellis, a menopause campaigner, said: “More than one in three MPs will go through menopause so it is brilliant to see some action on this at last. For too long the needs of menopausal women have been ignored, overlooked or downplayed, leaving women suffering in silence and ignorance.
“It took me almost four years of going back and forth to the GP to get help and even then, it was my husband who finally realised all my symptoms were menopause. It has taken another three years to get my HRT right through lack of understanding from my GPs.
“Many women I know have given up with the NHS and paid privately, some into the thousands of pounds for help – money they can barely afford at times.”
Diane Danzebrink, who runs the Menopause Support network, which works with 10,000 women, added: “Improving menopause education, care and support for all women is vital, far too many continue to needlessly suffer in silence and this has to stop.”
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