MPs: gynaecology waiting lists are too long; Women's Health Strategy must address | Endometriosis UK

MPs: gynaecology waiting lists are too long; Women's Health Strategy must address

On Wednesday 6 July, Emma Hardy MP, one of the Joint Chairs of the APPG on Endometriosis, led a Westminster Hall debate on gynaecology waiting lists. If you missed the debate, you can watch it online here

This is a topic very relevant to endometriosis as many with the condition have ended up waiting too long for appointments and treatment, which has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. The debate addressed endometriosis a number of times, including in the context of stopping use of the term “benign gynaecology” in the NHS, and as a priority area to be addressed in the future Women’s Health Strategy for England.

Unfortunately, due to events in Westminster yesterday, the debate did not have the level of attendance we hoped for.

Emma Hardy MP opened the debate by pointing to the huge increase in gynaecology waiting lists outlined in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) report on waiting times, resulting in half a million stuck on waiting lists. Ms Hardy then highlighted:

  • NHS use of “benign” for gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis must stop; waiting a long time for endometriosis surgery leading to anxiety and depression, and the need for more complex surgery is not benign!
  • The “First Do No Harm” report found problems in perception and prioritisation of gynaecology reported by women and NHS healthcare practitioners
  • The RCOG are demanding an overhaul to the way the NHS prioritises patients, so that as well as clinical need, wider considerations including quality of life and fertility are taken into account
  • Staffing is the biggest barrier to tackling the gynaecology backlog; the RCOG asks for gynaecology workforce plans in all four UK nations
Lyn Brown MP then spoke about the plight of women needing hysteroscopy, who face the unacceptable choice of having the procedure without anaesthetic, or waiting even longer, and demanded action from the government.

Labour Shadow Health Minister Feryal Clark MP took the floor to ask Health Minister Edward Argar, when the Women’s Health Strategy for England would be published, and if it would address the areas outlined in the December 2021 Vision Document. The vision document identified endometriosis as one of the priority areas to address.

Responding for the government, Health Minister Edward Argar said that the government intends to publish its new Women’s Health Strategy for England before the summer recess. He explained that the strategy is the first step, and that a delivery plan would then follow. 

When asked by Ms Hardy whether the strategy would look at gender bias in healthcare, Mr Argar said all the drivers and challenges in women’s health are being examined. Mr Argar also pointed to the establishment of 126 community diagnostic hubs in England, which is ongoing. These diagnostic hubs will enable increased availability of MRI and ultrasound scans, both of which are used in gynaecology.

While attendance was limited, Endometriosis UK is glad this debate took place and welcomes the important points raised. We look forward to the publishing of the Women’s Health Strategy for England, and stand ready to continue much-needed work with Governments across the UK to improve endometriosis diagnosis and care.

 

Post debate note: Edward Argar MP resigned as a Health Minister late Wednesday evening. The Women’s Health Strategy for England is being led by another Health Minister, Maria Caulfield MP, who has not resigned.

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