General Manager, Theramex UK
Dr Nina Wilson
CEO, One Woman Health
Women face a big disparity regarding healthcare access, depending on their socio-economic background and ethnicity. That includes receiving treatment for menopause symptoms.
In 21st century UK, you would expect all women to have equal access to healthcare, whatever treatment they need — and wherever they live. Yet, women face a big disparity in this area, depending on their socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities, says Tina Backhouse, General Manager of dedicated women’s healthcare company, Theramex UK.
“Women’s health issues are not being prioritised,” she insists. “For example, we know that gynaecology has the largest waiting list of any NHS department. We also know that there simply aren’t enough gynaecologists — and that menopause training is not mandatory for GPs. Proper training in this area is so important because GPs need to be able to understand when a woman is depressed and when she is experiencing symptoms of menopause.”
Why women’s healthcare is a postcode lottery
Access to menopause care varies. In some cases, women will be listened to sympathetically by their GP and treated appropriately. Others may feel as though their symptoms are being minimised and that their concerns are being dismissed. “Menopause symptoms can be extremely debilitating,” explains Dr Nina Wilson, a GP who is CEO of menopause clinic, One Woman Health.
“They can disrupt your sleep, mood and memory — and they may make you anxious. You may also have to deal with symptoms that you find embarrassing, such as hot flushes and night sweats, which can lead to a loss of confidence. Thankfully, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be transformative.”
However, accessing HRT can be something of a postcode lottery. “It’s about class, frankly,” says Backhouse. “Working-class women in more deprived areas are 30% less likely to be prescribed HRT for their menopause. Or, if it is prescribed, it’s not the latest type — or they may be given antidepressants, which they might not need. It’s also the case that women of colour and ethnic minorities do not have equality in terms of menopause care, or women’s healthcare generally.”
There have been attempts to address the problem. Last year, the Women and Equalities Committee, chaired by Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, published recommendations to promote equality of menopause care. “This included developing a national formulary to ensure that treatments are available to everyone,” says Backhouse. “It also included mandatory training for GPs. Unfortunately, the Government rejected those recommendations.”
Working-class women in more deprived areas are 30% less likely to be prescribed HRT for their menopause.
Impacts of struggling women on society
Dr Wilson is mystified by that decision and says that when women face barriers to healthcare, the knock-on effects can be significant. “The numbers of women who are struggling with menopause are huge,” she says.
“What’s more, the consequences go beyond the individual to impact the family, the economy and female equality as a whole, particularly if women end up leaving the workforce early because of the symptoms they are experiencing.”
Indeed, the Women and Equalities Committee reported that ‘women experiencing at least one problematic menopausal symptom are 43% more likely to have left their jobs by the age of 55 than those experiencing no severe symptoms.’
Equal access to treatments will improve women’s lives
On the positive side, the conversation around menopause and wider women’s healthcare is changing. “It’s becoming more open,” says Dr Wilson. “In the past, menopause was stigmatised because it’s associated with women getting older, which doesn’t fit with society’s cultural narrative. Now, there’s more awareness among women about symptoms — and a growing recognition that we shouldn’t have to put up with them.”
Still, things have to change further, says Backhouse — and women must demand it. “We’re not going to give in, and we’re not going away,” she stresses. “Thankfully, there are powerful women in parliament on all sides who are exercised about this. We are 51% of the population, and we must be given easy and equal access to healthcare treatments so that we can live our lives to the fullest.”
This content has been funded and reviewed by Theramex UK.
THX_GB_PRESSR_009315 | Date of prep: February 2023