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Landmark survey seeks women’s views on reproductive health in England

A survey has been launched to help women in England shape reproductive health policy by sharing their experiences of a range of issues. The government launched the survey to get women’s views on issues including periods, contraception, fertility, pregnancy and the menopause, as part of its women’s health strategy. The survey is open to all women in England aged between 16 and 55 and will run for six weeks from 7th September 2023.

This survey is part of the Women’s Health Strategy for England which is a 10 year strategy to improve healthcare for women. Minister for Women’s Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield said:
“Women and girls deserve the best healthcare at every stage of their lives, but we simply cannot deliver that without listening to their lived experiences and concerns. Women should always have a say in their own healthcare, whether that’s in managing pregnancy and fertility or dealing with the challenges of the menopause in the workplace. I would encourage every woman to complete the survey on reproductive health as soon as they’re able and ensure their voice is heard.”

The Women’s Health Strategy is widely welcomed and has been seen as long overdue. While women in the UK on average live longer than men, women spend a significantly greater proportion of their lives in ill health and disability when compared with men. In addition, although women make up 51% of the population, historically the health and care system has been designed by men, for men.
This ‘male as default’ approach has been seen in:
• Research and clinical trials
• Education and training for healthcare professionals
• The design of healthcare policies and services

This has led to gaps in our data and evidence base and so not enough is known about conditions that only affect women – for example, menopause or endometriosis. There also needs to be more research into conditions that affect both men and women, but impact them in different ways – for example, cardiovascular disease, dementia, or mental health conditions.
Ambitious goals have been set and measures already being introduced by the strategy include:
• Over 300,000 women have accessed cheaper hormone replacement therapy
• New women’s health hubs are opening across England in every integrated care board and a dedicated women’s health area has been added to the NHS website
• A new artificial intelligence tool is being launched to identify early risks in maternity units
• There will be a new IVF tool on GOV.UK so people can look up information about NHS-funded IVF treatments

Fertility is a key theme in the strategy. In a 2021 call for evidence survey, fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and postnatal support was the second most selected topic that respondents picked for inclusion in the Women’s Health Strategy, with 55% of respondents selecting this.
The committee have set the following goals to address current limitations of Fertility care:
• To address the current geographical variation in access to NHS-funded fertility services across England
• Ensure that Female same-sex couples are able to access NHS-funded fertility services in a more equal way
• An end to non-clinical eligibility criteria, through an assessment of current criteria and updated commissioning guidance
• Improved evidence-based information about privately funded fertility treatment ‘add-ons’ so patients are better able to make informed choices
• Commitment to greater transparency of the provision of IVF services across the country and mechanisms to publish data nationally on provision and availability of IVF
• To consider whether any change to regulatory powers is necessary to cover fertility treatment add-ons

The vital information gathered by this survey will highlight the most serious gaps in women’s health and inform current and future government decision-making and health policy.
Are you an IVF clinic or fertility technology providers who is interested in working to address these challenges? We can support you to reach your goals and help provide better healthcare for women. We would love to hear about your plans!

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