Women report waiting longer for operations and appointments in pandemic

‘All patients who are waiting for a procedure may well be in pain and may well be anxious,’ says doctor

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Friday 21 January 2022 20:37
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<p>Ms Mckeown, a GP, says female patients treated differently to men</p>

Ms Mckeown, a GP, says female patients treated differently to men

Women are being forced to wait longer for operations and healthcare appointments in the wake of the pandemic, according to a new report.

Research carried out by the Care Quality Commission, England’s regulator of health and social care, found 53 per cent of women experienced longer waiting times for appointments or healthcare procedures during the Covid crisis.

The report also found three in 10 women experienced appointment cancellations.

More women report grappling with these issues than men – with some 44 per cent of men saying they have experienced longer waiting times for appointments or procedures.

Helena Mckeown, a GP who previously specialised in women’s health at the British Medical Association (BMA), told The Independent she is not surprised by the findings.

Ms Mckeown, a former chief officer at the BMA, said: “Our world is full of sexism and we know of other examples of sexism and biases in healthcare. Some of them are racial biases. To stop unconscious biases, they need to be recognised and addressed.

“All patients who are waiting for a procedure may well be in pain and may well be anxious. It can affect your quality of life - such as your work and sleep.

“It may exacerbate other gendered inequalities such as the gender pay gap. Or potentially having to leave work through ill-health and that impacting your pension.”

Ms Mckeown, one of the directors of the Menopause Expert Group, a non-profit which provides education about menopause, said female patients are treated differently to men.

She added: “We need to make sure we are not taking women saying they are in pain differently to men saying they are in pain. It is really important that we address this problem of women waiting longer for operations and appointments.”

Research has shown women are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants for chronic pain conditions while men are likely to receive painkillers.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The findings in the Care Quality Commission’s survey echo what we’ve heard from patients about their recent experiences – increased waits to get appointments, poor communication from health service providers and cancellations.

“What concerns me is the finding that three in five are not confident that feedback they give about their experience of health and social care services is used to help make care services better.”

Ms Power said it is key patients and carers feedback on their experiences to services as that allows them to learn from mistakes.

The latest study also found almost three-quarters of carers say lockdown rules affected the mental health of the individual they care for. Women constitute around 80 per cent of the social care workforce, while government figures show women make up the majority of informal carers in the UK.

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