GPs should have ‘compulsory training’ in women’s health, including the menopause, the Government has said.
The Department of Health and Social Care made the remark as it announced a new ‘ambition’ to close the ‘gender health gap’.
However, GPs commented to Pulse that ‘all GPs are trained in women’s health’ as part of their training.
They also pointed out that the RCGP curriculum covers women’s health, including the menopause, and would be tested as part of the MRCGP.
The Government plans to publish a full Women’s Health Strategy in spring 2022, ‘that prioritises care on the basis of clinical need, not gender’.
It will name a health ambassador who will ‘raise the profile of women’s health, increase awareness about taboo topics and support the Government in implementing the strategy’.
It also announced plans to introduce legislation to ban hymenoplasty as soon as possible, following the advice of an independent expert panel.
It comes as a public call for evidence to inform the Government’s strategy found that eight in 10 women did not feel listened to by healthcare professionals.
The Government said the call for evidence, which had nearly 100,000 respondents, also found there was a feeling that services for specialities or conditions which only affect women are of lower priority compared to other services.
Women also believe ‘compulsory training for GPs’ on women’s health – including the menopause – is needed to ensure their needs are met, DHSC said.
The Vision for Strategy document said: ‘There was emphasis on education for GPs in particular, as GPs are often the first port of call for many women, and gatekeepers to other services.
‘Some responses called for compulsory training for GPs on women’s health, and noted that this would create an empathetic, supportive and informed environment in which women would feel comfortable coming forward to discuss issues.’
And, regarding the menopause, it added: ‘Respondents reported that symptoms were not taken seriously or recognised as the menopause, and that there were difficulties in accessing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), with some GPs reluctant to prescribe HRT.
‘Women also called for more information on the menopause, and on treatment options, in particular in cases where HRT is not suitable. We also heard calls for healthcare professionals to be better educated on the menopause and HRT. This was primarily in relation to GPs as the first port of call.’
But North London GP Dr Toni Hazell suggested the reason women feel ‘unsupported’ by GPs was because of chronic underfunding of primary care, rather than a lack of education.
She told Pulse: ‘Of course all GPs are trained in women’s health… Women feel unsupported, as do many men, because primary care has been systematically defunded over many many years, and so there aren’t enough GPs and we don’t have the time we’d like with each patient.’
East End GP Dr Selvaseelan Selvarajah further suggested patients need better education regarding women’s health.
He said the menopause ‘is an issue that affects many of our patients and can be under-recognised and under-treated especially in ethnic minority women’, as ‘they tend not to articulate typical symptoms’ and ‘may not know there are medications’.
Women’s health minister Maria Caulfield said: ‘It is not right that over three quarters of women feel the healthcare service has not listened. This must be addressed.
‘Many of the issues raised require long-term system wide changes, but we must start somewhere. I am proud to publish our vision for women’s health. It is the first step to realising our ambition of a healthcare system which supports women’s needs throughout their lives.’
It comes as the Government announced the cost of HRT for women undergoing menopause may soon be reduced and prescriptions made simpler.
Click to complete relevant women’s health CPD modules on Pulse learning.
Priorities for the women’s health strategy
Specific chapters to be explored in more detail in the Women’s Health Strategy include:
- Menstrual health and gynaecological conditions
- Fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and post-natal support
- The menopause
- Healthy ageing and long-term conditions
- Mental health
- The health impacts of violence against women and girls
Key priorities across age groups were found to be:
- Age 16-17: menstrual health
- Age 18-29: gynaecological conditions
- Age 30-39: fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and post-natal support
- Age 40-59: menopause
- Age 60+: healthy ageing