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What the new ‘Women’s Health Strategy for England’ means for you

With the up-and-coming Women’s Health Strategy for England, women and girls across the country are set to benefit from improved healthcare. The UK Government has published a first of its kind Women’s Health Strategy for England. The report comes after 100,000 responses were taken from individuals across England, detailing their experiences in the health sector and how it could be made better.

Once the responses had been taken, commitments have been laid out that plan to tackle inherent systemic issues within the health and care industry, and reset the way the health care system listens to women regarding women’s health (female contraception, maternity, domestic abuse etc.)

Those key commitments include:

  • New research and data gathering.
  • The expansion of women’s health-focused education and training for incoming, and upcoming doctors.
  • Improvements to fertility services.
  • Ensuring women have access to high quality health information.
  • Updating guidance for female-specific health conditions like endometriosis to ensure the latest evidence and advice is being used in treatment.

Menstrual Health

From the gathered 100,000 responses, gynaecological conditions were the topic that respondents picked for inclusion in the strategy. Menstrual health was the fourth most selected topic, with 47% of respondents selecting it.

Because of this, over the next 10 years, ambitions regarding menstrual health and gynaecological conditions will include:

  • Girls and boys receiving high-quality, evidence-based education on menstrual health and gynaecological health from an early age. Across the general population, there is increased awareness, and menstrual health and gynaecological conditions are no longer taboo subjects in any aspect of society.
  • All women and girls can access high-quality, personalised care within primary and community care, including access to contraception for the management of menstrual pain and gynaecological conditions. Where more specialist care is needed, women and girls can access diagnostic and treatment procedures in a timely manner.

Access to information regarding menstrual health was a key issue, with only 8% of respondents feel they had access to enough information.

There were also instances where the respondents thought that they had not been listened to regarding menstrual pain. They had been told that menstrual pain and heavy periods are ‘normal’ or that they would grow out of them. Alongside this, women said that they had reported symptoms of menstrual pain etc. over a period of months or years before eventually receiving a diagnosis for conditions such as endometriosis.

Maternity Care

Furthermore, the government shall prioritise personalised maternity care so that women are empowered to make purposeful choices during pregnancy and childbirth. Personalised maternity care is central for the UKs ambition to make the NHS the best place in the world to give birth.

Personalised maternity care means care is centred on the woman, her baby and her family during and after pregnancy, and is based around her needs and decisions, where there has been genuine choice informed by unbiased, evidence-based information.

Several programmes of work are supporting the expansion of personalised maternity care and ensuring women’s voices are at the heart of maternity care, including:

  • The roll-out of midwifery continuity carer, prioritising those most likely to experience health disparities.
  • 15 maternal medicine networks are being established across England to reduce rates of maternal mortality.
  • As part of NHS England’s iDecide project, which has been co-designed by women and healthcare professionals, NHS Digital is developing a series of decision-making tools to better support informed decisions in labour by supporting women and their families to record their wishes and consent.
  • The government provided £5 million in 2021 to 2022 to the Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth Collaboration, which includes the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and the Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute at the University of Cambridge. The collaboration is working to build consensus on a new approach for improved identification, escalation and action on foetal deterioration in labour. A final pilot programme is currently in development for 2022 to 2023 to test a delivery model for training of the trainers, and for site-level training, ahead of implementation, of a national improvement programme across maternity services in England.


A lot of the respondents to the report found it difficult to access appropriate menopause care. This was reported as being due to lack of recognition of symptoms from both women and healthcare professionals, with some written submissions noting that symptoms of the menopause can be confused with other conditions, such as women sometimes being prescribed antidepressants rather than menopause treatments.

Reports also indicated that there is a reluctance among some healthcare professionals to prescribe HRT for menopause symptoms, with some written responses concerned that current clinical guidelines focus too heavily on risks and not on the benefits of HRT.

Support for menopause in the workplace was also an important theme, with many respondents and organisations describing a lack of support at work and a feeling that the menopause is a ‘taboo’ subject that cannot be talked about openly, which made management of symptoms even more difficult.

Over the next 10 years, ambitions for improving everything menopause include:

  • Everyone – girls and boys – is well informed about the menopause from an early age
  • Women going through the perimenopause and menopause can recognise symptoms and know their options, including self-care and where to seek support
  • Women can access high-quality, personalised menopause care within primary care and, if needed, specialist care in a timely manner, and disparities in access to menopause treatment are reduced
  • Girls and women experiencing early menopause – whether naturally or as a side of effect of medical treatment – can access specialist and personalised support, including support for mental health, fertility and bone health
  • Healthcare professionals in primary care are well informed about the menopause, and able to offer women evidence-based advice and treatment option, including HRT and alternatives
  • Improve other healthcare professionals understanding of menopause, including symptoms and future health risks associated with it
  • Make sure women are supported in the workplace and employers are well equipped to support their workforce during menopause
  • Increase research into the menopause, including different treatment options and impacts of menopause or menopause treatment on future health risks.

Female Contraception

Women, on average, will require contraception for 30 to 40 years of their live and it is vital that women can access the full range of contraceptive methods in a convenient way.

Female contraception plays a vital role in supporting women and partners to fulfil their pregnancy intentions, including the prevention of pregnancy, timing of pregnancy and spacing of pregnancies. Contraception also has an important wider role in women’s lives – for example, managing symptoms of menstrual problems, gynaecological conditions and perimenopause.

Information about female contraception after childbirth should be offered in the antenatal period to support informed decision-making. This enables women to plan any subsequent pregnancy and reduce short-inter pregnancy intervals, which are associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes.

Reproductive Wellbeing

Part of the 10-year ambition is the general reproductive wellbeing of women. There is a system wide approach to women’s reproductive wellbeing and supporting individual choice. This means national and local policies and services are centred on women and girl’s reproductive wellbeing, and reflect the life course approach, rather than being organised around a specific health issue or the needs of commissioners.

Tampon Tax

As part of addressing all of the issues arisen in the report, the government has taken action to begin to address the issues and disparities that women face on a day-to-day basis. This includes abolishing the tampon tax, removing VAT from women’s sanitary products, and rolling out of free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals.

The tampon tax, which taxes menstrual products as non-essential items, placed an additional burden on people who menstruate and discriminates against them by making items crucial for everyday life unaffordable for some. By abolishing the tampon tax, and VAT tax on sanitary products, these types of products should now be more affordable and available for all women.

Domestic Abuse

Some groups of women are more likely to experience certain forms of violence and abuse than others – for example – disabled women experience higher rates of domestic abuse than non-disabled women, and lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to have experienced abuse than heterosexual women.

Responses in the report highlighted that health impacts of violence and abuse, including domestic abuse, are wide ranging and extensive, and can have long-term impacts on women and girl’s physical and mental health.

Actions that the government intendeds to take to reduce violence and domestic abuse against women include:

  • Commitment to work with new ICSs, including work identifying potential perpetrators and supporting victims
  • Commitment to work with NHS England to review and build their workforce policies to ensure safe, effective processes are in place to support staff affected by violence against women and girls, and other forms of violence and abuse, and that staff understand how these issues affect them as individuals and how to access any support they may need
  • Commitment to exploring how victim support services for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse can be enhanced.
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