Women and girls across England will benefit from improved healthcare following the publication of the first ever government-led Women’s Health Strategy for England.
Following a call for evidence which generated almost 100,000 responses from individuals across England, and building on Our Vision for Women’s Health, the strategy sets bold ambitions 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.
Responses to the call for evidence highlighted a need for greater focus on women-specific health conditions, including fertility and pregnancy loss.
To support progress already underway in these areas, the strategy aims to provide a new investment of £10 million for a breast screening programme. This will provide extra capacity for services to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic boost uptake of screening in areas where attendance is low. It will also help tackle health disparities and contribute towards higher early diagnosis rates in line with the NHS Long Term Plan.
Additionally, the strategy will 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.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Our health and care system only works if it works for everyone. It is not right that 51% of our population are disadvantaged in accessing the care they need, simply because of their sex. The publication of this strategy is a landmark moment in addressing entrenched inequalities, and improving the health and wellbeing of women across the country.
Minister for Women’s Health Maria Caulfield said: “When we launched our call for evidence to inform the publication of this strategy, women across the country set us a clear mandate for change. Women and clinicians also called for the expansion of information and educational resources for women and healthcare professionals, and more cohesion in the way services are provided, making it as simple as possible for women to access the healthcare they need.”
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.
To address this, the strategy commits to commissioning urgent research by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) into healthcare professionals’ experiences of listening to women in primary care, with a focus on menstrual and gynaecological symptoms to inform policy to ensure women’s voices are heard.