Do women draw the short straw with healthcare?

Blog by Victoria Butler

The government has, for the first time, published a women’s healthcare strategy for England. So, was it necessary? If so, why? How did this come about? And what are the key changes that this will bring about in women’s healthcare?

Let’s start with the easy part. Was it necessary? Is women’s healthcare in England really so significantly different to men’s? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ and ‘absolutely’. Here are some examples, worldwide:

  • A study of US emergency departments showed that women presenting with acute pain were less likely to be given opioid painkillers than men.
  • A study showed that women had to wait longer to receive painkillers when they are prescribed.
  • One particularly alarming study noted by the government was a 2015 study at Yale for a drug that was only intended for women to take, where a staggering 23 of the 25 study participants were male!

The government put out a ‘call for evidence’ last year and received nearly 100,000 responses from women across the country. Worryingly, 84% of respondents reported that there had been incidents where they felt that healthcare professionals had not listened to them. The new health strategy aims to address this, but it will not happen overnight, and the strategy covers a 10-year period for changes to be implemented.

The strategy aims, through better education around women’s health issues in schools, to help remove some of the stigma around topics such as menstruation, contraception and menopause, as well as increasing the public’s general knowledge and awareness of these issues. They aim to improve women’s healthcare for every stage of their life and want to ensure that harder-to-reach communities and individuals will also benefit from the changes in this strategy. In the field of research, the government aims to increase the number of studies specific to women’s health and to involve women more in health research. A report will be published in 2025 to assess how successful these changes have been in improving this situation.