Northern Ireland was the first part of the UK to host an Endometriosis Action Month event, which took place yesterday evening on Tuesday 1st March, the opening day of Action Month.
To find out more about how you can take part in and support Action Month please click here.
Thanks to our panellists
We would firstly like to thank to our excellent panellists Councillor Sorcha Eastwood and Caroline McCormick, our Belfast Support Group Leader, who joined Emma Cox, CEO Endometriosis UK. We would also like to thank Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA, who was unable to attend due to urgent ministerial business, but kindly arranged for her colleague Sorcha to step in.
Thanks also to Health Minister Robin Swann MLA, who was unable to attend the debate, but provided us with a written update on recent developments with endometriosis care in Northern Ireland.
Access to care
Access to care is the biggest concern facing the endometriosis community in Northern Ireland, in particular, access to specialist care, which was raised by panellists and highlighted by questions from the audience. There is currently no fully accredited BSGE endometriosis specialist centre in Northern Ireland as the centre at the Altagelvin hospital, part of the Western Health and Social Care Trust is no longer operating. There is one provisional BSGE centre in Northern Ireland at the Mater hospital, part of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
Not everyone with endometriosis is seen in a specialist centre. However, the relevant national (NICE) guidance, which is adopted in Northern Ireland, states that everyone with suspected or confirmed deep endometriosis involving the bowel, bladder or ureter should be seen in a specialist centre.
On the topic of specialist care, we learnt from the Health Minister that:
- The Belfast Trust, which remains a provisional BSGE centre, has plans to become fully accredited and is currently preparing a business case to request the necessary funding to do this.
- The Health and Social Care Board believes that specialist care could be reinstated at the Western Health and Social Care Trust in 2022-23.
Another concern raised at the event was the backlog in gynaecology care in Northern Ireland, including surgery for endometriosis. Delays in getting surgery for endometriosis in Northern Ireland are pushing some women to consider going private, even though this may push some into debt. However many cannot afford to do so and there is concern about increasing health inequalities.
The Health Minister has informed us that the Health and Social Care Board have recently set up an initiative to establish the number of women waiting for endometriosis surgery in Northern Ireland, as exact numbers are not currently known. This was seen as a welcome development by panellists and the audience. When something is measured, getting action to address it can often be easier.
Northern Ireland Assembly elections
Emma Cox shared Endometriosis UK plans for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, which includes a “Write to your candidates” campaign that would be launched in the coming weeks.
The aim of this campaign would be to ask Assembly candidates become Endometriosis Champions if elected MLA in May, and to encourage their party to insist on commitments on improving endometriosis care in the next Northern Ireland Programme for Government.
Keep an eye on our social media channels for more information on this campaign.
Comments or questions on our work in Northern Ireland? Please email us.