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All new doctors to face mandatory women’s health training from 2024

All new doctors to face mandatory women’s health training from 2024

All new doctors will be required to complete mandatory women’s health training from 2024, under the Government’s first-ever Women’s Health strategy.

The new strategy for England, published today, also includes a commitment to commission ‘urgent’ research into ‘healthcare professionals’ experiences of listening to women in primary care’.

It follows a call for evidence that generated almost 100,000 responses from across England, which ‘highlighted a need for greater focus on women-specific health conditions’, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

The DHSC today announced that the strategy, which aims to tackle the ‘gender health gap’, will ‘ensure all doctors are trained to provide the best care to women by introducing mandatory specific teaching and assessment on women’s health for all graduating medical students and incoming doctors’.

It added that it will introduce ‘specific teaching and assessments on women’s health in undergraduate curricula for all graduating medical students from 2024 to 2025 and for all incoming doctors’.

The strategy said: Improvements to curricula and assessment will ensure that the next generation of healthcare professionals are better educated in women’s health. 

‘However, it is also vital that currently practising health and care professionals are supported to continuously learn and update their knowledge in women’s health.’

It added that among responses to the call for evidence, there was a ‘particular emphasis on education for GPs’, with some calling for ‘compulsory training for GPs on women’s health to help create a supportive and informed environment in which women would feel comfortable coming forward to discuss issues’. 

The DHSC said it will also commission ‘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’.

Women will also be surveyed every two years to gather insights into their experience of reproductive health services.

It added that this comes as: ‘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.’

The strategy also includes commitments around:

  • ‘Major’ new research on women’s health issues to increase understanding of female-specific health conditions
  • Updating guidance for female-specific health conditions such as endometriosis
  • £10 million investment in the breast screening programme to provide 25 new mobile breast screening units for areas with the lowest uptake
  • Improvements to fertility services including improving ‘transparency on provision and availability’ and removing barriers to IVF for female same-sex couples
  • Recognising parents who have lost a child before 24 weeks through the introduction of a pregnancy loss certificate in England
  • Ensuring women have ‘access to high-quality health information’ such as via the NHS website
  • Publishing a definition of ‘trauma-informed practice’ and ‘encouraging its adoption in health settings’
  • Exploring how to ‘capitalise on points of interaction that women have with the healthcare system’ such as postnatal checks with GPs

It said that a new NHS cervical screening management system is ‘in development’ to replace the current call/recall system, which will allow GPs and sexual health providers to manually opt in eligible transgender men and non-binary people for an automatic screening invitation.

‘Further work’ could include ‘best practice guidance’ for GPs to support socially excluded women such as those experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping, it added.

The DHSC said 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’.

Health 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.’

The Primary Care Women’s Health Forum welcomed the ‘long-overdue recognition of women’s health concerns’ but said that the strategy ‘brings with it both opportunities and challenges’.

Forum chair Dr Anne Connolly said: ‘The strategy brings opportunities to reduce inequalities by delivering holistic care at scale, care that is acceptable and accessible for the local population – such as that delivered within Women’s Health Hubs. However, this requires funding to be identified with appropriate commissioning and payment arrangements.

‘Funding will be the key challenge to implementing the strategy’s recommendations. It will be difficult to realise the vision without extra financial support or a clear plan for workforce development at a time when health services are already at capacity.’

The DHSC suggested in December that GPs should have ‘compulsory training’ in women’s health, including the menopause.

However, GPs pointed out that ‘all GPs are trained in women’s health’ as part of their training.

It comes as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has today given the green light for certain vaginal HRT tablets to be available over the counter without a GP prescription.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Dr N 21 July, 2022 9:05 am

It might be an idea that F1 F2 and GP trainees actually got some proper hospital training. From those that I speak to they are nothing more than patient history taking, ward clerk, cannula fitting phlebotomists.

Dylan Summers 21 July, 2022 9:29 am

I’m not trying to be controversial but this talk of the “gender health gap” confuses me. When I did my training 20 years ago the “gender health gap” referred to the fact that men do worse on most health outcomes than women, and that services needed to be adjusted to encourage men to engage more.

What happened? Did we win that battle so well that now the “gender health gap” means the opposite?

James MacHugh 21 July, 2022 10:48 am

This is an insult to Medical Training – we have been having training in Women’s Health for decades, and to suggest otherwise is truly ingenuous – again a case of political “sound byte-itis”!!

Patrufini Duffy 21 July, 2022 11:07 am

Please. More gimmicks. Do you really think this is a conversation to be had? Really? How many GP trainees do urology? How many offer a man a PSA or fob him off? How many young women get countless bloods, ultrasounds, referrals, sertraline, mental health attention, antenatal, pill checks, hair consultations and the whole myriad. Ask GPs – even female ones which will vouch. Women get ample opportunity to contact healthcare, let’s not add the smears and family planning agenda. They get their fair share of check ups, unwarranted ultrasounds, hormone tests and calprotectins and normal sigmoidoscopies. They get plenty of gynae referrals which is why that department is close to sinking and even gynaecologists are jumping ship to sit and do mindless HRT clinics privately. There is a DRCOG, and DFSHRH – skewed to women. Get a grip. And don’t stir something that’s blatantly not what is real world. Women deserve their attention. And men deserve better.

C Ovid 21 July, 2022 6:56 pm

Sadly, I don’t think this is only about gender bias. I recollect that female patients have higher consulting rates for all the correct reasons and what we are seeing is a reflection of NHS indifference generally. A lot of the clinicians with whom I work have adopted the first presentation “wait and see” approach but unfortunately are not necessarily the first to see that patient. This is a function of the fragmentation of continuity. I don’t think it’s a knowledge gap or training need but a reflection of the total breakdown and futility of the current “service”. We all know how to do our job well but don’t get much opportunity to do it by the cr*ppy NHS. In medicine, the question is always WHY.

Patrufini Duffy 21 July, 2022 9:08 pm

C Ovid is spot on too. I just refer immediately. One stop shop medicine, bloods scan refer. Next patient. That is the best you can offer. Then wait for a NHS rejection. And yes, you wonder why. We don’t need training.