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First ever Women’s Health Strategy for England to close the gender health gap’

The first ever Women’s Health Strategy for England, published today (20 July), sets out how the government will tackle systemic issues within the healthcare system to improve women’s health and wellbeing.

The first ever Women’s Health Strategy for England, published today (20 July), sets out how the government will tackle systemic issues within the healthcare system to improve women’s health and wellbeing.

The strategy is informed by over 100,000 responses from women across the country following a call for evidence and commits to improving education and training for incoming doctors, expanding research and data gathering, and ensuring women have access to high quality health information and updated guidance.

A greater focus on women’s specific health conditions

Feedback from the government’s call for evidence revealed that there must be a greater focus on women’s specific health conditions. This includes fertility and pregnancy loss, and gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis which affects one in 10 women.

The strategy aims to eradicate additional barriers to IVF for same-sex couples by removing the requirement to pay for artificial insemination and improving transparency on provision and availability of IVF to tackle the ‘postcode lottery’ of access to treatment.

Parents who have lost a child before 24 weeks will also be issued with a pregnancy loss certificate so that healthcare professionals are better able to handle sensitive subjects and provide extra support.

Additionally, under the new strategy, the service specification for severe endometriosis will be updated to ensure that this specialist service has the most up to date evidence and advice.

£10 million package will fund a new breast screening programme

The call for evidence also revealed that thousands of women across the country don’t feel listened to, and there is a lack of understanding among medical professionals about health conditions which affect women.

To address this, the government is introducing specific teaching modules on women’s health in undergraduate curricula for all graduating medical students from 2024 to 2025 and for all incoming doctors.

It will also invest in new research on women’s health issues and their experiences in primary care. This will inform new policy and plans to address data gaps, identify barriers to women participating in research, and improve the quality of data collected by the NHS.

The government also wants to improve the quality of information and educational resources that are available to women and healthcare professionals. To achieve this, it will:

  • Transform the NHS website to become a hub of women’s health information
  • Expand the number of Women’s Health Hubs across the country, supporting women to maintain good health and driving NHS efficiency
  • Train healthcare professionals to practice trauma-informed care to ensure that women who have experienced domestic violence of psychological abuse can access the care they need.

A £10 million package will also fund a new breast screening programme, which will see 25 mobile screening units pop up across the country. The units will be placed in areas with the lowest screening rates, hopefully boosting uptake, tackling health disparities and providing extra capacity for services to recover from the pandemic.

“A clear mandate for change”

Women typically spend more of their life in poor health than men and this limits their ability to work and participate in day to day activities. The government hopes that this new strategy will close the gender health gap, which will not only benefit the health and wellbeing of women, but also the health of the economy.

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.

“Tackling the gender health gap will not be easy – there are deep seated, systemic issues we must address to ensure women receive the same standards of care as men, universally and by default.

“This strategy is the start of that journey, but eradicating the gender health gap can’t be done through health services alone. I am calling on everyone who has the power to positively impact women’s health, from employers to doctors and teachers to industry to join us in our journey.€

Women’s Health Ambassador Dame Lesley Regan added that the strategy is “a major step in the right direction” that will tackle some of the “deep rooted issues” that currently exist.

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