Women’s health: can we do better?

 Dr Anne Connolly, RCGP Clinical Champion for Women's Health

The Chief Medical Officer in her annual report of 2014; The Health of the 51%: women, highlighted the need for improved appreciation, by clinicians and employers, of the social and psychological impact that many women’s health concerns cause in addition to the physical symptoms they experience.

Recent NICE Guidelines on aspects of women’s healthcare have included management of heavy menstrual bleeding, menopause, fertility and urinary incontinence.  A consistent theme central to all has been the need to appreciate the patient experience and the requirement to consider a holistic, individualized, life-course approach to management.  This theme is likely to continue in the imminent publication of the NICE Endometriosis guideline recognizing the significant impact these conditions have not only the health but also the well-being of women in their work and social lives.

In addition, a recent survey of women with endometriosis and fibroids, collected for the Women’s Health All Party Parliamentary Group (WHAPPG) Report 2017 Informed Choice? Giving women control of their healthcare, found that many felt they were not listened to or treated with dignity and were not provided with sufficient information about their management options or treatment side-effects to enable them to make informed decisions about their care.

In response to the concerns raised by the WHAPPG the RCGP has set up a Clinical Spotlight Programme on Women’s Health.  The spotlight programme is supported by and working closely with the RCOG, Endometriosis UK and the RCGP Patient and Carer’s Participation Group and includes representation from across the four nations.  This joint working opportunity between patients, clinicians and the charitable sector will remind us to listen to and value our patient’s concerns when developing this programme of work.

Together we are examining the findings of the report and aim to develop resources to fulfill the recommendations made to improve the care offered to women.  The outputs will include the production of evidence-based resources to improve clinical practice and promote the use of streamlined care pathways to deliver holistic, quality care. The work will ensure that women can be empowered to choose where, when and how to access their management options by signposting to relevant information resources to obtain the information required to do so.  Additionally, these resources will support women to make any recommended lifestyle changes to improve their physical, psychological and social concerns when managing the many expectations of them in the home and work environment.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of Council for the Royal College of General Practitioners, says ‘As a GP with a background in gynaecology I am delighted that RCGP has embraced the challenges awareness raising in women’s health as part of our Spotlight Programme. We already have a superb team with wide ranging expertise and I am confident that they will achieve and exceed their ambitions with the help of additional input from our members and stakeholders.’

The RCGP Clinical Champion for Women’s Health, Anne Connolly, is calling for your support and is looking for additional stakeholders to further enrich this important work.  Please get in touch with Anne if you would like more information or get involved: Anne.Connolly@bradford.nhs.uk



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