GPs could be mandated to screen women for menopause within the NHS health check as well as via QOF, a Government minister has revealed.
In a parliamentary debate last week, health minister Maria Caulfield said it is ‘crucial’ that menopause is incorporated into the health check.
The Department of Health and Social Care has asked the NHS health check advisory group to ‘review the case’ for including the menopause, she said.
And she added that the upcoming QOF consultation will engage GPs on whether the menopause should be included within the quality framework.
In the debate last week, members of the APPG reiterated their points, with Labour MP Peter Dowd saying the fact menopause is not part of the health check is ‘at best a surprise and at worst shocking’.
He also said the QOF update would ‘help to balance the deficit in knowledge and understanding among GPs by incentivising improvement in diagnosis levels and treatment provision within primary care’.
In response, Ms Caulfield said: ‘First, on health checks, I have asked the NHS health check advisory group to review the case for including the menopause in the NHS health check alongside its broader future considerations on the health check, following the delivery of the digital check next spring.
‘I will keep the House updated on that work, particularly the hon. Member for Swansea East, as co-chair of the menopause taskforce, because it is crucial that it is included.’
Adults aged between 40 to 74 are invited to an NHS Health Check at their GP practice every five years. GPs currently look out for early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia.
When pressed on the Government’s plans to ‘boost training and development’ for GPs, Ms Caulfield said they are ‘looking this year to consult on the future of the quality and outcomes framework, which is one of the measures used to look at health conditions, to see whether the menopause should be included’.
‘We fully recognise the importance of ensuring that GPs ask the right questions so that women get the right support. We intend to have those conversations with GPs about the QOF framework,’ she added.
While no commitments were made on mandatory training specifically for practising GPs, the minister did confirm that from next year all medical students will have to complete a module that includes menopause.
The aim is to ensure that future GPs ‘have better awareness of the signs and symptoms and management of the menopause, so that when women approach for help, they will be better supported’.
Professor Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, told Pulse that politicians are ‘often in favour of interventions for single conditions’, but that he does not agree with the minister’s proposals.
He said: ‘The Health Check should stay focused on its core objectives, which are the prevention and early detection of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Likewise, QOF should stay focused on its core areas such as secondary prevention.’
Professor Majeed also said that instead of focussing on single conditions like the menopause, NHS primary care should be viewed ‘holistically’ and should be ‘adequately staffed and resourced to manage all the important medical problems that patients present with’.