Impact of ‘problem periods’ at work will be probed under ambitious plan to overhaul women’s health care, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins vows

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Women need ‘faster, simpler and fairer’ access to health care, Victoria Atkins said today.

The Health Secretary vowed to close the gender gap, claiming that medical woes unique to females have been ‘overlooked and under-researched’. 

Ministers have pledged to prioritise tackling ‘problem periods’ as part of a 10-year plan aiming to break down the obstacles women face in healthcare.

The Office of National Statistics will be tasked with tracking the impact of painful periods and endometriosis in the workplace.

Up to one in three women can experience heavy periods, which can be extremely painful.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said women’s health issued had been ‘overlooked’ for too long

Endometriosis sees tissue similar to the lining of the womb grow in places it should not, for example the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Charities say it affects 10 per cent of women.

It can cause pain, fatigue, depression, period problems, as painful sex and make it more difficult to get pregnant.

There is currently no cure for the condition, estimated to cost the UK £8.2billion a year in treatment and sufferers having to take time off work. 

At a summit in London today, Ms Atkins will also pledge to prioritise giving women going through the menopause more support and bolstering maternity care, which has been rocked by a string of scandals over the past year.

She will set out plans to champion women’s health to help support them throughout life, including a £50million fund to research better maternity outcomes.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes. 

The long-term condition affects women of any age, including teenagers. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Period pain
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Pain peeing or pooing
  • Feeling sick
  • Difficulty getting pregnant

Treatments include:

  • Painkillers
  • Hormone medicines and contraceptives
  • Surgery to cut away the patches of endometriosis 

Source NHS 

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Others areas the Government says it will improve this year include the menopause and supporting victims of sexual abuse and violence.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Ms Atkins said: Women are half as likely to receive painkillers after surgery and despite living for longer, we spend more of our lives than men in ill health.

‘Our health issues are often overlooked and under-researched.‌ I am determined to change this.’

She also hinted she was prepared to take action on the erasure of biological women in health, adding: ‘A woman’s sex matters, especially when it comes to healthcare and research.’

The NHS, and the wider medical world, has been hit by a number scandals in recent years involving the scrubbing of the word ‘woman’ from female-specific health issues like the menopause and disease like ovarian cancer. 

In her speech, to be held at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London today, Ms Atkins will say every area must open at least one ‘women’s health hub’ by the end of this year.

She said these hubs will give women more local access to a range of services like contraception as well as support and care for problem periods and menopause symptoms. 

The summit is marking the second year of the Government’s Women’s Health Strategy.

The 10-year blueprint, announced in 2022, is aiming to break down obstacles women face in healthcare.

The gender gap in health has been a problem for years, with women globally estimated to spend a quarter more of their lives in poor health than men.

Campaigners say this disparity is deepened by women specific health issues not attracting the same level of medical research as those affecting men.

In a separate release to Ms Atkins announcement, a World Economic Forum (WEF) report published today calculated the cost of the global gender gap in health at $1trillion (£790billion)

The report, presented at the WEF’s annual conference in Davos in Switzerland, found every $1 (79p) invested in women’s health returned $3 (£2.37) in economic growth through factors like women taking less time taken off work.

Finances weren’t the only benefit, with the report estimating the gender health gap currently cost 75million years of life lost per year.

Woman, breast feeding and vagina all used to be standard terms used within the medical community. But they are just a selection of words that have been replaced by some woke NHS trusts, private hospitals and charities as part of an inclusivity push

Woman, breast feeding and vagina all used to be standard terms used within the medical community. But they are just a selection of words that have been replaced by some woke NHS trusts, private hospitals and charities as part of an inclusivity push

Data published just last week show stark inequalities with black women three times as likely to die than white women. With data still preliminary, it is not yet known what proportion of women died in hospital or at home, or how each of the UK countries compare

Data published just last week show stark inequalities with black women three times as likely to die than white women. With data still preliminary, it is not yet known what proportion of women died in hospital or at home, or how each of the UK countries compare

This, the report calculates, equates to each woman losing a week of their life every year. 

Britain isn’t immune to gender health gap.

Research conducted by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) found women are 50 per cent more likely to be misdiagnosed when suffering a heart attack compared to men. 

Differences in cardiovascular health outcomes alone are estimated to have resulted in the needless deaths of 8,200 women in a ten-year-period in Britain, according to the BHF. 

Health gaps also exist within different groups of women.

Ms Atkin’s £50million fund to research better maternity outcomes will seek to address disparities in maternity care.

Data published just last week show black women in Britain have almost triple the risk of dying in maternal care compared to white women. 

Health minister Maria Caulfield said: ‘Helping women and girls who suffer from bad periods can make a huge difference to their lives, education and careers. 

‘And any woman who has experienced trauma after giving birth – either mentally or physically – will know the impact it can have on all aspects of her life.’

‘These are issues that impact women but they should not be seen as a “women’s problems” – it is an everyone problem. We are doing more to put these issues on the agenda and keep them there, to close the gender health gap once and for all.’

Women’s health ambassador Professor Dame Lesley Regan said the strategy is ‘ambitious’.

She added: ‘It was created to ensure our healthcare system places women’s health on an equal footing to men.

‘I want women everywhere to feel confident that when seek advice from their healthcare professional, whether it’s for heavy or painful periods or issues following birth, they know they are going to receive world-class treatment.

‘This is the ultimate goal of the strategy, and I am delighted that we have made such positive progress in the first year and generated so much enthusiastic help to succeed.’

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