Women’s Health Strategy in England to close gender health gaps

on 20 July 2022

The Government has published the first Women’s Health Strategy in England with the aim to close gender gaps when it comes to health care.

The strategy has introduced new research on women’s health issues to increase the understanding of women’s health needs so that they are diagnosed and treated effectively.

It also announces £10 million in funding for a breast screening programme, providing 25 mobile units to reach women in areas that see low screening uptake and challenges.

The strategy has been developed following a call for evidence on women’s health, which saw 100,000 responses across England and builds on Our Vision for Women’s Health, setting out ambitions to tackle systemic issues within the health and care system to improve care for women.

Responses from the call for evidence on women’s health found that there should be greater focus on fertility and pregnancy loss, as well as gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis that affects 1 in 10 women.

Key commitments have been outlined in the strategy such as new research and data gathering, improvements to fertility services and ensuring women have access to up to date guidance on specific health conditions.

Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caufield, said: “When we launched our call for evidence to inform the publication of this strategy, women across the country set us a clear mandate for change.

“Tackling the gender health gap will not be easy – there are deep seated, systemic issues we must address to ensure women receive the same standards of care as men, universally and by default.

“This strategy is the start of that journey, but eradicating the gender health gap can’t be done through health services alone. I am calling on everyone who has the power to positively impact women’s health, from employers to doctors and teachers to industry, to join us on our journey.”

Women and healthcare professionals also called for more educational information resources and more cohesion in the way services are provided, making women’s healthcare more accessible.

Executive Director and Midwife at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Birte Harlev-Lam, said: “We need to see the detail and the strategy itself but the commitment to improve care for women from ethnic minority backgrounds and more vulnerable women is welcome. However, we need to see investment right through pregnancy and beyond to really make a difference to them and all women, and to the safety and quality of their care. This requires a major step change in funding for maternity services and staff. England continues to suffer from a chronic and longstanding midwifery shortage and is over 2000 midwives short of the numbers needed, and a situation worsening month by month. Many are simply choosing to leave the profession as they buckle under the strain, and as their pay lags way behind the soaring cost of living. Strategies are great but they are nothing without the right staff, with the right training and in the right places to deliver them.

“Services for those who have suffered the loss of their baby are also massively understaffed and underfunded, with a serious lack of specialist midwives and support. Just last week the Bereavement Midwives Forum laid out to politicians just how dire the situation is. These specialist midwives are overwhelmed by the pressures they are facing, and morale is at a nadir. They simply cannot deliver the services and support women who have suffered the tragedy of baby loss need and deserve.”

The vision for the Women’s Health Strategy can be accessed here.