If you’ve ever felt like you’ve not been adequately listened to when speaking to doctors or other healthcare professionals, you’re not alone.
After a mass call for evidence of women’s experiences of the healthcare system by the government – to which over 100,000 women responded – the findings have been published and they’re…not great.
In fact, they add further weight to the notion that a gender health gap exists – and that women’s healthcare provision has a long way to go until it adequately meets the needs of those who need it.
So What Are The Key Findings of the Report?
The report found that:
80% of women believe that they are not being listened to by healthcare professionals.
Nearly two in three respondents with a health condition or disability said they do not feel supported by the services available for individuals with their condition or disability.
The report also highlighted how the problem extends beyond the consulting room and into the wider culture.
For one, the findings indicate that damaging taboos and stigmas around women’s health can prevent women from seeking help and reinforce beliefs that debilitating symptoms are ‘normal’.
Gender Health Gap: What Needs To Change?
The blanket answer is a comprehensive narrowing of the gender health gap: something the government’s Women’s Health Strategy will aim to work towards, once launched in Spring 2022.
The strategy will focus on the following topics:
Menstrual health and gynaecological conditions
Fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and post-natal support
Healthy ageing and long-term conditions
The health impacts of violence against women and girls
But drilling down into specifics, the women surveyed believe compulsory training for GPs on women’s health including the menopause is needed to ensure their needs are met.
That 50% of respondents said they felt uncomfortable talking about health issues with their workplace also points to sizeable blind spot where health issues are concerned – across a great variety of companies.
The View from a Female Health Professor
For Professor Geeta Nargund, senior NHS consultant and Medical Director at CREATE Fertility, the focus needs to be on treating gynaecological conditions in a more timely manner – and working to improve access to treatment for women in ethnic minority communities.
‘When it comes to gynaecological conditions there is a very clear need to accelerate referrals for early diagnosis with a fast-track to consultants, and there must be a focus on health conditions affecting Black, Asian and Minority Ethic women who have historically struggled to access support,’ she explains.
Another key area of focus has to be, she believes, making fertility treatment provision more fair and equitable.
‘Fertility issues continue to affect a growing number of women, and to ensure all those who need can access treatment we urgently need to end the NHS IVF postcode lottery,’ says Professor Nargund - adding that extending funding to same-sex and single women across the UK also needs to be prioritised.
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