Ministers are promising to end decades of inequality.
In groundbreaking news today, ministers are promising to reshape the narrative and tackle decades of “systemic, entrenched” gender health inequalities in England with a new women’s health strategy.
They’ve announced plans to retrain doctors, up the number of cancer checks and launch female health hubs, alongside improving access to contraception, IVF, maternity support and mental health services.
Introducing England’s first women’s health strategy
The first women’s health strategy ever announced by the UK government comes after a survey of almost 100,000 women revealed the extent of their negative experiences – of not being listened to by medical professionals, of being palmed off while male counterparts were listened to, and of being turned away when facing debilitating and often chronic conditions.
84% felt they are ignored or not listened to when seeking NHS help and thousands felt they “persistently needed to advocate for themselves.”
The strategy, which is 127-pages long, admits that “historically, the health and care system has been designed by men, for men”.
It was originally due to be published last year but has been pushed back several times.
Speaking of the women’s experiences, Maria Caulfield, the Women’s Health Minister, expressed her sadness and shock. “When we launched our call for evidence to inform the publication of this strategy, women across the country set us a clear mandate for change,” she said. “Tackling the gender health gap will not be easy – there are deep-seated, systemic issues we must address to ensure women receive the same standards of care as men, universally and by default,” she shares.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay agrees, adding : “It is not right that 51% of our population are disadvantaged in accessing the care they need, simply because of their sex.”
“The publication of this strategy is a landmark moment in addressing entrenched inequalities and improving the health and wellbeing of women across the country.”
The government’s Women’s Health Ambassador, Dame Lesley Regan, went on to add that this is an opportunity to “reset the dial on women’s health” after years of the NHS “failing” women.
They’ve also vowed to make sure the necessary research is commissioned into certain under-represented female health conditions, “tackling the data gap.” At current, there is a serious lack of research into several prominent female health conditions, including the likes of endometriosis and PCOS.
Any new or trainee medics will now be tested on topics including menopause and gynaecology.
As per the strategy: “We heard concerns that women had not been listened to in instances where pain is the main symptom, for example, being told that heavy and painful periods are ‘normal’ or that the woman will ‘grow out of them’.
“Women also told us about speaking to doctors on multiple occasions over many months or years before receiving a diagnosis for conditions such as endometriosis.”
What do you reckon – a good move or does more need to be done?