Tell us about the #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign and why a menopause matters forum for change is so important
There are three keys aims with the #makemenopausematter campaign:
- To improve menopause education amongst GPs. At the moment, too many women suffer because GPs receive very little, if any, menopause education during their training. It means they’re ill equipped to recognise and manage a phase of life that will directly affect at least 50% of the population. This simply isn’t good enough.
- To raise awareness within the workplace and for all employers to have menopause guidelines in place to be able to support women experiencing symptoms. Too many women feel unsupported at work and currently one in 10 leave the workplace due to menopause symptoms.
- To introduce menopause education into the curriculum for all teenagers – girls and boys. Every woman and man deserves to understand this phase of life. Far too many individuals and relationships suffer as a result of a lack of understanding of menopause.
What drove you to launch the #makemenopausematter campaign?
Every day of every of week I counsel women who have been struggling to get the right advice and support for their menopause symptoms. Women like this desperately need a menopause matters forum to support and guide them.
I share their frustrations. Six years ago, I had to have a total hysterectomy, including removal of both of my ovaries, putting me into immediate surgical menopause. I received no counselling or advice about the possible effects of my surgery and was told simply to visit my GP after a few weeks when I left hospital.
Due to a lack of the right information and support, I did not receive the treatment I needed at the right time.
Far too many individuals and relationships suffer as a result of a lack of understanding of menopause.
A few months after my surgery, I fell in to a very deep, dark place where I came close to ending my own life. I was lucky; I had a supportive husband and family who got me the help I needed when I was not capable of doing that for myself.
Why aren’t GPs doing enough to support women through menopause?
I have become increasingly aware of just how many women are not receiving the right support and advice at menopause, from their doctors, their employers and sometimes even their own families and friends. This is all due to a chronic lack of menopause education and awareness.
It may surprise you to know that GPs receive little, if any, mandatory menopause education during their training – pretty shocking when you consider that it is a stage of life that 50% of the population will experience.
How can we make GPs do better?
I don’t want women to have to continue to struggle with their menopause symptoms in the way that I did, which is why I’m calling on three MPs to do something about it: Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health Jackie Doyle-Price and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care Steve Brine.
I want them to work together with the NHS, the Royal College of General Practitioners and medical schools to make comprehensive menopause training a compulsory part of GP education and to expand menopause services throughout the UK.
Have you made any progress?
In January, I took the #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign to Westminster for a round table meeting with Jackie Doyle-Price and Rachel Maclean. I was delighted to be joined by other women passionate about menopause, including Dr Louise Newson. We had an excellent discussion focused on improving healthcare and education and subsequently Rachel Maclean raise the #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign aims as a question in the House of Commons. This is the sort of menopause matters forum that we need.
We will be returning to Westminster again to follow up, so watch this space.
The result of the lack of GP education is that far too many women are left to endure menopause symptoms and the long term health effects of falling hormone levels.
In the meantime, what’s happening when women see their GPs?
The result of the lack of GP education is that far too many women are left to endure menopause symptoms and the long term health effects of falling hormone levels. Women are regularly being misdiagnosed as depressed and prescribed anti depressants when they are in fact perimenopausal.
Far too many women are being forced to fund private consultations to access treatment that should be readily available to them via their GP practice.
Many women who experience an early or premature menopause are told they are too young to be menopausal; others are denied first line treatment when they are told they are too old or ineligible due to their lifestyle or health. Those women with complex cases are enduring lengthy waiting lists due to a chronic lack of NHS menopause specialist clinics throughout the UK.
How is the NHS affected by this?
This lack of education and awareness is costing women their health and wellbeing but it is also costing the NHS. Many women seek repeated appointments with their GPs to attempt to address a host of common menopause symptoms including joint pain, palpitations and anxiety.
These women are often incorrectly referred on to secondary care, incurring further distress for the individual and further cost for the NHS. Better education and implementation of the 2015 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines would result in quicker diagnosis and treatment for women and savings for the NHS.
A few months ago while doing some research, I took a look at the most recent suicide figures produced by the Office for National Statistics. The age group for women with the highest suicide rate per 100,000 in the U.K is 50-54, the average age of menopause is 51. Is this the ultimate hidden cost of a lack of menopause education, information, advice and support?
How is menopause dealt with in the workplace?
There are currently around 4.3 million women aged over 50 in employment in the UK. Recent studies have shown that two-thirds of women said they had no support at work and 50% have reported finding work difficult due to their symptoms of menopause. Approximately one in four consider leaving employment due to their symptoms and 10% of women have given up work altogether as a result of their symptoms.
I have personally counselled four NHS nurses over the last six months who have all left the organisation due to a lack of awareness and support.
In recent years we have seen surveys, statistics and reports outlining the impact of menopause on productivity and profitability but the hidden costs are to family finances, personal confidence and the benefits system, when women, who have always been in employment, find themselves relying on benefits for the first time in their lives. Supporting women to remain at work by implementing a few simple adjustments is common sense. Government and business need to recognise that menopause guidance in every workplace is a win win situation.
Why are so many of us clueless about menopause?
The most heartbreaking sentiment that I hear from women when supporting them is, “I wished I had known this information before, I think it might have saved my relationship”. This is why a menopause matters forum and campaign is so important. Surely anything that avoids the loss of personal health, employment opportunities and relationships makes it worthy of inclusion in the curriculum.
It’s time to make menopause education and awareness a priority for our young people in the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) curriculum. Every woman and man deserves to understand a stage of life that will affect us all whether directly or as a partner, family member, friend or employer. Age appropriate education will ensure more autonomy for women and greater understanding and compassion from those around them.
What can we do to make a difference?
Please join over 14,000 others and sign #MakeMenopauseMatter petition.