Women make up 52% of the population in Wales. More and more women are having children later in life, caring for elderly relatives, or working until old age. At some point, the vast majority of these women will go through the menopause, naturally, or prematurely perhaps as a result of medical or surgical treatment.
The majority of women are expected to be able to carry on with their caring and employment obligations, often whilst suffering debilitating, sometimes severe, symptoms of menopause – symptoms for which there is little recognition, appreciation, or support. However, as we speak, there are only two NHS clinics in Wales offering specific menopause care for women. For more information on symptoms, click here.
We are calling upon the Welsh Government to provide more resources in Wales to support women through what can be an extremely difficult time in their lives.
Without this support, the Welsh economy is suffering. It is estimated that 1 in 10 menopausal women in the UK leave their employment as a result of unmanageable symptoms, lack of appropriate treatment, and poor access to services.
As of July 2018, there are just two specialist clinics available for women going through the menopause. One based in Aneurin Bevan local health board South East Wales. The specialist clinician covering this health board works part time; only one afternoon per week, and has a 4.5 month waiting list for her menopause services. We’ve just been informed by Cwm Taf Health Board that it also runs a relatively new designated menopause clinic one day a week.
The other health boards in Wales will refer women suffering difficulties during the various stages of menopause to the gynaecology department at their local hospital where knowledge has been found to be limited. This is because the menopause is not a priority specialism.
GPs and health professionals are confused about how to treat women through the menopause due to the studies undertaken in the 1990s (the Women’s Health Initiative in the USA, and the Million Women Study in the UK), where it was reported that the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) posed a danger, and increased the risk of cancer.
Seventeen years later, in 2015, and on the back of many subsequent studies, including a re-evaluation of the research mentioned above, NICE published updated guidance which debunked the misconceptions arising from the WHI and MWS reports. The NICE guidelines demonstrate that HRT can be a hugely powerful tool in helping to prevent women suffering both menopause symptoms and the health risks which come with being untreated (such as cardiac disease and osteoporosis, both of which are amongst the biggest killers for post-menopausal women).
The problem is that health professionals are often not aware of the updated knowledge that would enable them to support women to make an informed decision about how to treat their symptoms. In addition, those in charge of funding and delivering health services to the public haven’t prioritised women’s health, and so many dedicated services, including those required for menopause, haven’t been made available.
So, what do we need from our NHS in Wales?
- More information in GP surgeries
- Specialist training for GPs, practice nurses, and gynaecologists
- Specialist multi-disciplinary support and sign-posting (to encompass gynaecology, endocrinology, mental health, physiotherapy, lifestyle, amongst others) in dedicated Well-being clinics
- Improved Human Resources support in the workplace
- Bi-lingual resources made widely available to women to enable them to identify their symptoms and be appropriately treated
- Finally, menopause needs to feature much more strongly across all forms of media so that it is no longer considered taboo or a just a topic for comedy but can be openly and accurately discussed. It would also be helpful if the positive benefits of HRT could be made widely known so that women are no longer either refused it or offered anti-depressants instead.
We believe that every health board region in Wales has an obligation to its women to meet the needs of those going through menopause. Their well-being is of importance both to their families and selves but also to the nation. It makes economic sense to invest in services which can help women remain productive – and healthy – for longer.
If you would like to support our campaign to improve the care available to 52% of the Welsh population by increasing knowledge, information, and services available to those going through menopause, please sign our petition.
You can also add your comments to the petition. We would particularly like to hear from those who have personal experience of menopause in Wales, including access to services, and would be grateful if you felt able to include the health board, or region of Wales, in which you lived at the time.
Our plan is to make the results of this petition, along with a report outlining the reasons for this campaign and subsequent recommendations, available to Welsh Government in the near future. Please watch this space for updates – and please share the petition far and wide. Together we can make a positive difference for women in Wales!
Download FTWW’s Pocket Menopause MythBuster.