Right now, there's a lot of conversation about menopause. For example, we recently wrote about the new Women’s Health Strategy for England, which talks about how doctors in England are to be given mandatory training to better treat female medical conditions. Menopause is one item on the agenda.
In addition, more celebrities are being vocal about their menopause experience and more women are sharing their experiences on the eternal democratiser - social media. However, what has seemed to be glaringly absent are really tangible methods by which women are going to be supported, and in some ways what's happening on the ground seems to be at odds with what's being publicised.
Menopause in the community
As is so often the case, NHS funding and experiences can be wildly different from one region to the next and healthcare trusts are periodically given a new set of targets, as well as ways of working, depending on the ebb and flow of different governments. In Coventry for example, our esteemed friend Dr. Verity Biggs, a GP and Women's Health Expert, has been an ardent advocate of a dedicated community menopause clinic, run by experienced consultant gynaecologist and menopause specialist, Mr Tony Parsons.
However, changes to the local funding structure is now highly likely to result in the community based clinic reverting to an NHS secondary care trust, which ultimately changes its accessibility. In short, by being taken out of the community, it's highly likely that women will need a specialist referral to the clinic. That usually means a more extensive waiting time as it places it under a more general gynaecology department handling multiple health related issues, rather than a specialist team/centre dedicated to menopause.
The impact of waiting times for menopause treatment
Dr. Verity says: "The concern about these community clinics closing is that for a lot of practices it will mean women are waiting a lot longer for HRT and other solutions, and are suffering with the side effects of hormone changes as a result. That might mean they feel unable to work as a result of their symptoms, for example. These people, who are experienced and capable and have 10 or more years left in their working life could be inhibited by not having timely access to the right health support."
This might be one clinic in one area, but so often these less 'emergent' health issues can become siloed and lost alongside critical waiting lists. Community medicine can play a powerful role in supporting individuals because of the direct patient knowledge and contact.
Of course one case does not a whole system make, but we're curious - are you finding the menopause support you need in your community?