Decades of gender health inequality will be addressed as the government publishes its vision to reset the dial on women’s health.
The Vision for Women’s Health sets out key government commitments on women’s health, while recognising the system wide changes needed to tackle some of the issues raised, to be addressed by the upcoming Women’s Health Strategy in spring 2022.
To help transform the vision into a decisive strategy and action, the government 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.
Underpinned by the analysis from almost 100,000 responses to the call for evidence, the vision reflects the government’s ambition for a healthcare system that prioritises care on the basis of clinical need, not gender.
The responses gave stark and sobering insights into women’s experiences of health and care and highlighted entrenched problems within the healthcare system including:
- Damaging taboos and stigmas in women’s health can prevent women from seeking help and reinforce beliefs that debilitating symptoms are ‘normal’.
- Over 8 in 10 have felt they were not listened to by healthcare professionals.
- There’s a feeling services for specialities or conditions which only affect women are of lower priority compared to other services.
- Women believe compulsory training for GPs on women’s health including the menopause is needed to ensure their needs are met.
- Nearly 2 in 3 respondents with a health condition or disability said they do not feel supported by the services available for individuals with their condition or disability.
- Over half of respondents said they felt uncomfortable talking about health issues with their workplace
Maria Caulfield MP said “The responses from the call for evidence were in many ways as expected, particularly with regards to women’s priorities, but in some places the revelations were shocking. It is not right that over three quarters of women feel the healthcare service has not listened. This must be addressed.”
“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.”
The government’s ambitions in the vision are:
- that all women feel comfortable talking about their health and no longer face taboos when they do talk about their health
- that women can access services that meet their needs across the life course
- that all women will have access to high quality information and education from childhood through to adulthood, in * that all women feel supported in the workplace and can reach their full potential at work
- to embed routine collection of demographic data of participants in research trials to make sure that our research reflects the society we serve
Details on the action government will take to fulfil these ambitions will be followed by the Women’s Health Strategy in Spring 2022.
To take immediate action to protect women and girls from harm, the vision document also sets out our intention to introduce legislation to ban hymenoplasty at the earliest opportunity.
This follows the recommendation from an independent expert panel to ban the practice which is intrinsically linked to virginity testing, and stems from the same repressive attitudes towards a woman’s sexuality and the concept of virginity.
The publication of the vision document follows moves by the government to make Hormone Replacement Therapy, a key medication to offset the symptoms of the menopause, more accessible by reducing the cost burden for menopausal women. The government is also establishing a new UK-wide menopause taskforce to further investigate how women going through the menopause can be better supported by clinicians, workplaces, and peers.
The call to evidence ran from March to June 2021 and generated 110,123 responses, including almost 100,000 responses from individuals across England and over 400 written responses from organisations.