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First Women’s Health Strategy for England published

The Government has published the first ever Women’s Health Strategy for England, aiming to tackle deep-rooted, systemic issues within the health and care system to improve the health and wellbeing of women, and reset how the health and care system listens to women.

The strategy includes key commitments around:

  • new research and data gathering
  • the expansion of women’s health-focused education and training for incoming doctors
  • improvements to fertility services
  • ensuring women have access to high-quality health information
  • updating guidance for female-specific health conditions like endometriosis to ensure the latest evidence and advice is being used in treatment

Women live on average for longer than men but spend more of their life in poor health, often limiting their ability to work and participate in day-to-day activities. Closing the gender health gap and supporting women to live well will not only benefit the health and wellbeing of women, but the health of the economy.

Responses to the call for evidence highlighted a need for greater focus on women-specific health conditions, including fertility and pregnancy loss, and gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, which affects 1 in 10 women.

To support progress already underway in these areas, the strategy aims to:

  • provide a new investment of £10 million for a breast screening programme, which will provide 25 new mobile breast screening units to be targeted at areas with the greatest challenges in uptake and coverage. This will:
    • provide extra capacity for services to recover from the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
    • boost uptake of screening in areas where attendance is low
    • tackle health disparities
    • contribute towards higher early diagnosis rates in line with the NHS Long Term Plan
  • remove additional barriers to IVF for female same-sex couples. There will no longer be a requirement for them to pay for artificial insemination to prove their fertility status and NHS treatment for female same-sex couples will start with 6 cycles of artificial insemination, prior to accessing IVF services, if necessary
  • improve transparency on provision and availability of IVF so prospective parents can see how their local area performs to tackle the ‘postcode lottery’ in access to IVF treatment
  • recognise parents who have lost a child before 24 weeks through the introduction of a pregnancy loss certificate in England
  • ensure specialist endometriosis services have the most up-to-date evidence and advice by updating the service specification for severe endometriosis, which defines the standards of care patients can expect. This sits alongside the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) review of its guideline on endometriosis.

the strategy commits to:

  • transforming the NHS website into a world-class, first port of call for women’s health information by updating existing content and adding new pages – including on adenomyosis, a gynaecological condition where endometrial tissue grows into the muscle of the uterus – and bringing together third-party new and existing content
  • encouraging the expansion of Women’s Health Hubs around the country and other models of ‘one-stop clinics’, bringing essential women’s services together to support women to maintain good health and drive efficiency in the NHS, helping clinicians as they work to tackle the COVID backlogs
  • publishing a definition of trauma-informed practice for use in the health sector and encouraging its adoption in health settings, to help address barriers to accessing services that people affected by trauma – such as domestic violence or psychological abuse – can experience, ensuring they can access the care they need

Women’s Health Ambassador Dame Lesley Regan said: “Having spent my career looking after women, I am deeply aware of the need for a women’s health strategy that empowers both women and clinicians to tackle the gender health gap.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for women to access the services they need, to keep girls in school and women in the workplace, ensuring every woman has the opportunity to live her life to her fullest potential.

“This strategy is a major step in the right direction, listening to the concerns of women, professionals and other organisations to tackle some of the deep-rooted issues that we know exist.

“Feedback from thousands of women across the country revealed that they feel their voices were not always listened to, and there was a lack of understanding or awareness among some medical professionals about health conditions which affect women.”

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Emma Cooper
Emma Cooper
Emma is Content Manager at Pf Media.

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