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Women's healthJul 23, 2022

Physiotherapy organisations welcome opportunities in 10-year Women's Health Strategy for England

The Pelvic Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy (POGP) professional network has welcomed the publication of the first Women’s Health Strategy for England, which sets the agenda for 10 years and was published earlier this week (20 July).

Kate Lough, POGP chair, said pelvic health physiotherapists would play a key role in the government’s long-term plan for integrated, gendered healthcare over a woman’s lifespan. Specialist physiotherapists were involved in all aspects of pelvic floor and pelvic pain conditions, which can affect women’s wellbeing in a significant way, Dr Lough said.

‘Building on existing strategies and influenced by women’s voices these initiatives will encourage women to access healthcare in a timely way and be better supported along the treatment pathway.’

Dr Lough added: ‘The role of the women’s health ambassador [a post filled by Professor Dame Lesley Regan] will be key to linking the government areas that impact on women’s health giving health, social care, mental health, justice and equalities a common goal.’

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A call for evidence on women's health issues prompted nearly 100,000 responses

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Women Leaders Network responds

Samantha Allen, who chairs the NHS Confederation’s Health and Care Women Leaders Network, said many women spend the bulk of their lives in poor health. ‘The Women’s Health Strategy provides an opportunity to tackle the deep rooted and systemic issues that exist within our health and care system.

‘Whilst this is an opportunity to improve health outcomes for women, it will require a fundamental change in how the NHS provides care to women and listens to their needs alongside supporting our own workforce to ensure they work in a supportive environment that meets their needs. The contribution women make to the health and wellbeing of the nation has never been more visible or important. Women make up three quarters of the NHS workforce, over 80 per cent of the social care workforce and a high proportion of unpaid carers.'

Ms Allen said a survey conducted by her network showed that women had had a significant presence in the frontline response to Covid-19 and that this had ‘negatively impacted on their health. The role women play in the wellbeing of society is significant and this strategy sets clear priorities to ensure their needs are met,' she added.

Impressive response to call for evidence

This is a 10-year strategy, that sets out a range of commitments to improve the health of women everywhere, including a plan to transform women’s health content on the NHS website, a definition of trauma-informed practice for the health sector and plans to increase female participation in vital research [Steve Barclay and Maria Caulfield]

In a foreword to the strategy, Steve Barclay, secretary of state for health and social care, and health minister Maria Caulfield said they were pleased with the number of responses that were received after a call for evidence was issued last year.

‘It’s brilliant that we have received almost 100,000 responses from women across the country, and over 400 written submissions from organisations and experts in health and care. We have used these responses to shape this document, to make sure it reflects the voices of women across the country.’

They added: ‘This is a 10-year strategy, that sets out a range of commitments to improve the health of women everywhere, including a plan to transform women’s health content on the NHS website, a definition of trauma-informed practice for the health sector and plans to increase female participation in vital research.’

Women's health hubs

One of the strategy’s ‘top commitments’ is to encourage the expansion of women’s health hubs in England, alongside other models of ‘one-stop clinics’. The aim is to bring essential women’s services together to support women to maintain good health and create efficiencies for the NHS.

‘We will establish a women's health accreditation mechanism to recognise commissioners and providers who offer services in these ways and promote best practice across the country,’ the strategy notes.

CSP welcomes strategy

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said: ‘We welcome this strategy which is an important step in the right direction if we are to tackle the stark gender health gap that has existed for so long. It is imperative that women’s voices are heard and that their lived experiences are acknowledged and better understood in order to shape and improve services within the NHS.

‘But to deliver on these recommendations we need to ensure we specifically listen to and co-design services with the voices of marginalised women who disproportionately struggle to access rehabilitation services.'

The CSP added: ‘The physiotherapy workforce will be key to achieving all these goals as they play a vital role in supporting women in many areas, not least with pelvic prolapse and gynaecological related pain which was found to be one of the top areas where barriers existed in accessing these services.’

To download copies of the strategy, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/womens-health-strategy-for-england

To find out more about POGP, which is affiliated to the CSP, visit: https://thepogp.co.uk

To see the CSP's response in full, visit: https://www.csp.org.uk/news/2022-07-20-physio-workforce-will-be-key-first-womens-health-strategy-england

Author: Ian A McMillan
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