The UK Government has recently set out its new plans to improve healthcare and patient safety for women.
The plan – Women’s Health Strategy for England – came about after a consultation whereby 80% of 100,000 women said that they felt like NHS healthcare staff didn’t listen to them and they were being ignored when they raised issues with puberty, fertility, menopause and old age. The respondents also voiced their frustrations that some healthcare professionals had a lack of understanding when it comes to health issues that only affect women and were dismissive of their health concerns.
The Department of Health recognised that it was time to “right the wrongs” of decades of institutional sexism in the NHS and close the “gender gap” in NHS services.
Officials for the new plan also noted that research, clinical trials, education and training for healthcare professions, working policies, and services are “male in default” leading to “gaps in our data and evidence base which mean that not enough is known about conditions that only affect women, for example, menopause or endometriosis”.
When the consultation first began, the then Health and Social Care Minister, Matt Hancock, admitted that “for generations, women have lived with a health and care system that is mostly designed by men, for men” and “symptoms can often differ between men and women” leading to the risk of misdiagnoses for women.
What does the Women’s Health Strategy for England aim to do?
The 10-year plan aims to provide mandatory training to medical students to focus on health issues that impact women differently, such as:
- Menstrual health
- Fertility, IVF, and pregnancy
- Mental health
- Violence against women and girls
- Cervical cancer
There are also plans to improve access to fertility treatment regardless of location and for same-sex couples.
Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, and Health Minister, Maria Caulfield, said:
“the new plan sets out how we will improve the way in which the health and care system listen to women’s voices, and boost health outcomes for women and girls”.
The new plan hopes to provide mandatory teaching and assessment along with the following:
- Funding of £10 million for mobile breast cancer screening in places where there are low testing rates;
- Updating guidance around the treatment of endometriosis, a severe and debilitating condition;
- Introduction of a pregnancy loss certificate when a foetus dies within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy; and
- Expansion of dedicated women’s health hubs for maternity, gynaecology, and sexual health services.
Women’s Health Ambassador, Dame Lesley, is optimistic about the new plan and believes it will “reset the dial” on women’s health. It is important that everyone, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, age, race, or other groups are not disadvantaged when it comes to access to health and care.
How can we help?
Vikky Lai is a Trainee Solicitor at Nelsons.
If you have any questions concerning the subjects discussed in this article, please do not hesitate to contact Vikky or a member of our Medical Negligence team in Derby, Leicester, or Nottingham who will be able to assist.