Let's be honest on 'assisted dying'
By Ian Cameron
Men believe GP services are failing to meet their needs because practices are too focused on serving women and children.
A survey by the Men's Health Forum concluded that men saw primary care as unwelcoming and obstructive and GPs could do more to cater to male sensibilities.
The forum warned major public health problems would follow unless primary care services did more to tackle men's health.
More than 300 men were asked what changes surgeries could make to encourage them to attend.
They replied that there was an 'urgent' need for more flexible opening hours, more male staff at practices, men-only clinics and health MOTs.
Men reported that reception areas in practices lacked confidentiality and were unwelcoming reinforcing their anxiety about 'wasting a doctor's time'.
Dr Ian Banks, chair of the forum and a GP in Belfast, called for an 'honest' appraisal of how general practice could become male friendly and said certain conditions, such as prostate cancer, were neglected.
GPs must also think more 'laterally' to help cut the 3,000 male suicides a year, he added.
Dr Banks said: 'Up to age 55 men use GP services half as much as women. Over 55, men are twice as likely as women to end up as inpatients, so the most expensive side of health care is weighted towards men.'
GPs agreed men's health was lagging behind but warned against making 'cosmetic' improvements to primary care in order to make it more appealing to men.
Dr Sarah Gray, a GP in Truro, Cornwall, said men's health was 20 years behind women's health and there was a deeper need to give it academic 'credibility'. 'Men's health is still nebulous,' she said.
'Most GPs have an awareness but men need to feel it's OK to come in and talk to us.'
Dr Fay Wilson, a GP in Birmingham who tried to establish Well Men clinics but found little demand, said it was unfair to say primary care was biased against men.
'If the majority of people who require services are very old, young or disabled you need to tailor services to them.
'We could re-engineer services but then they might be less accessible to old people.'