MPs have called on GPs to refer women more promptly for suspected gynaecological problems and to provide them with more information, after finding women were ‘not being treated appropriately’.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health (WHAPPG) said it found that two-fifths of women with endometriosis had at least 10 appointments with the GP before being referred to a specialist.
But the RCGP said that GPs took these issues, which are difficult to diagnose, very seriously.
The group’s survey of 2,600 women with fibroids and endometriosis also found that two-fifths sought a second opinion, while two-thirds of women said they got most of their information about their condition from the internet.
The MPs said women felt that their GPs lacked understanding and that they were ‘fobbed off’.
The report also claimed there is a lack of GP education about gynaecological conditions, what treatments are available and where to refer – leading to delays in referral for embolization for fibroids, for example, and to specialist centres for endometriosis.
They recommended that ‘GPs, secondary care clinicians and nurses should provide or signpost women to high quality information and resources about endometriosis and fibroids, their impact and treatment options’ and called for ‘multi professional training and education opportunities to be supported by the RCN [Royal College of Nurses], RCGP and RCOG (Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology] – which have CPD points on endometriosis and fibroids’.
Paula Sherriff, WAPPHG chair, said: ‘I was shocked by some of the stories we heard. The group has found that best practice does exist, adn tehre are ways that women should be treated in the NHS. Women should not be dismissed and ignored, they should be referred to appropriate care and then given information [about] all possible treatment options, and their side effects and complications.’
But RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said GPs ‘know that both endometriosis and fibroids can cause women considerable pain and distress, and these are both conditions that GPs and our teams are aware of and take seriously’.
Professor Stokes-Lampard added that it was ‘regrettable that so many women in this paper have reported a negative experience in obtaining a diagnosis’, but cautioned that the survey was ‘unlikely to be representative of all women’s experiences’.
She said: ‘Women’s health is a key part of the RCGP curriculum which all GPs must demonstrate competence of in order to practise independently in the UK – and both endometriosis and fibroids are covered in the exams that GP trainees must pass in order to attain MRCGP.
‘The college has recognised women’s health as a clinical priority over the next 12 months and will shortly embark on a programme of work to develop resources to support GPs and our teams in the identification and treatment of women’s health issues. We look forward to working with a number of organisations, including the WHAPPG and other medical royal colleges, to inform this project.’