A report published by a coalition of charities and health organisations, on International Day of Action for Women’s Health, says women in Wales have poorer health outcomes than men and urgent action is needed to ensure they receive equal care and treatment.
Leading the Women’s Health Wales coalition of over sixty charities, UK-wide umbrella organisations, Royal Colleges and patient representatives, British Heart Foundation BHF Cymru and Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales (FTWW) have today [Saturday 28th May 2022] published a Quality Statement which calls on Welsh Government to improve healthcare for women, girls and those assigned female at birth (AFAB) across Wales.
Despite making up 51% of the population in Wales, the coalition says medicine and healthcare services fail to meet female patients’ needs, resulting in significant disparities in care between men and women – which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Both the Scottish and UK Governments consulted on their own Women’s Health Plans, with Scotland’s being published and the UK Government issuing a statement confirming work underway for England. When a Wales equivalent was not forthcoming, the Women’s Health Wales coalition was formed with the aim of ensuring a holistic, life-course approach to women’s physical and mental health. Welsh Government has pledged to support the Coalition’s work.
“Health inequalities are rife in Wales – from a lack of access to specialist services, to a lack of appropriate data,” said Gemma Roberts, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at British Heart Foundation Cymru. “So Welsh Government’s plan needs to be ambitious to ensure a holistic life course approach to women’s health encompassing all areas where the odds are stacked differently for women, such as in heart attack care ”
We were delighted to provide the patient voice in this truly collaborative, co-produced plan,” said Debbie Shaffer, Founder of Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales. “Patients are often the experts by experience in their own care and can identify areas of improvement moving forward – their insight is invaluable. We are calling on the Welsh Government and health boards in Wales to commit to continuing this level of involvement – nothing about us, without us”.
Cardiac Case Study
74-year-old Pat Pritchard is a retired accounts supervisor from Bridgend. She’s married to John and has two children – her son Ceri, 44, and daughter Leanne, 42, and six grandchildren.
Pat had no idea she was having a heart attack in 2014 and, despite going to her GP after feeling unwell, she wasn’t diagnosed until weeks after she first experienced symptoms.
She was diagnosed with heart failure and spent almost a month in hospital having an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted to regulate her heart rhythms and recovering.
Pat wants other women to know the signs of a heart attack and for women to get optimal treatment for all health conditions.
Pat says, “My high cholesterol was never picked up before my heart attack. I’d had back pain in the May and vomiting in the June and was told by my doctor that I had a viral infection and was given sickness tablets. A few days later I went back to the doctor and was sent to hospital for an electrocardiogram (ECG) and chest x-ray. I drove myself. I was shocked when they told me I’d had a heart attack and heart failure. I never thought it would happen to me.”
[additional details on Pat’s story below]
FTWW Case Study
Lisa Nicholls, from Newport, is a long-time campaigner and advocate, leading FTWW’s Menopause Campaign. She says: “I struggled for four years to access appropriate care for my menopause symptoms. I had difficulty accessing GP support to identify that my symptoms were peri-menopause, I was wrongly prescribed medication and had inappropriate referrals to other healthcare professionals. Things got so bad that I left my lifetime career. I was eventually referred to an NHS menopause specialist – thanks to her team, I am now on the right track with my HRT and my health is good. I have found that running helps my physical and mental health too – I’m now training to run an ultra-marathon!
“I was delighted to be a patient representative on the Women’s Health Wales coalition, which will progress in collaboration with Welsh Government to put women’s health needs at the top of the agenda. Women and those assigned female at birth make up over half of the population – we need to support education in health care services to improve the menopause care and support every woman will access at some point in their lives. As with many other health conditions, menopause specialists are not in every health board area, so patients can fall victim to a postcode lottery. Menopause is not just about women. This is about everyone including the men and children in our lives, because we all have a sister, wife, colleague, mother, daughter who will experience menopause. We can all do more to remove the stigma and become better educated and support those experiencing symptoms.”
Key recommendations of the plan include improved access to specialist services, improved data collection, support for sustainable co-production of services, and enhanced training for health and care professionals.
You can find out more about the report and the coalition’s work at www.ftww.org.uk/womenshealthwales/