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Gynaecologists call for women's one-stop clinics and video consultations

Monday December 2nd, 2019

Women are struggling to access basic healthcare services, according to a landmark report published today.

The Better for Women report, by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG recommends the introduction of one-stop women’s health clinics to provide reproductive and sexual healthcare services in one location.

These clinics, which RCOG says would save the NHS money, should be available in the evenings and at the weekends to improve accessibility and to help to address social and economic inequalities.

The RCOG-commissioned survey questioned 3,021 women aged between 18 and 65 years, and it found that women are struggling to access healthcare services locally, due to under-funding and fragmentation of sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

Almost four in 10 women said they were unable to access contraception services, while 60% said they could not access unplanned pregnancy services, including abortion care, locally.

Just over one third said they did not attend their last smear test, while half said they were unable to access sexually transmitted infections (STI) services. Just over half - 56% - said they could not find help locally for menstrual health issues, such as for heavy/painful periods, while 58% were unable to access menopause services.

RCOG warned that poor access to basic women’s health services leads to a rise in unplanned pregnancies, abortions, poor patient experiences and outcomes, and creates more postcode lotteries across the country.

The report backs National Institute of Health and Care recommendations that women inquiring about abortion should be able to use telemedicine for an assessment.

Professor Lesley Regan, president of RCOG, said: “It is time for a new and bold approach to transform women’s health services and we look forward to working with many key partners to bring about much needed changes across the NHS and particularly in the community.

“Many of the barriers to access to women’s healthcare services can be improved by ensuring services are joined up and more responsive to the needs of girls and women. It is important we provide a comprehensive health service for girls and women throughout their lives. We want to empower 51% of the population to be as healthy as possible and ensure no one is left behind.

“This doesn’t need to come at a great financial cost to the NHS. In fact, we believe we can do better for less.”

The report called for: easy access to contraception, abortion and fertility services; NHS-led women’s health strategies to focus on a preventative model of healthcare, rather than the current disease intervention service; the NHS UK website to be the best source of information for girls, women and clinicians; all young people to be educated from an early age about women’s health; women’s health issues to be embedded in workplace policies; and the prevention of deaths from gynaecological cancers across the life-course.

The report has been backed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

RCM chief executive Gill Walton said: "This is an important report that puts women at the centre of health improvement that needs governments and those running our health services to take notice. Our whole health service needs to focus much more on prevention of ill health, and to invest in our health and social services to support that.”

Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), added: “I see a patient in my contraception clinic who requires a difficult fitting of the coil. She is also due her cervical smear test. This is the perfect opportunity to provide both services. However, my clinic is not commissioned to provide smears, so I am unable to do so.

“Instead of having all of her needs met in one go, this woman now has to book two appointments for two different vaginal examinations. It is expensive, frustrating for me as a doctor and unfair for the woman. Something has to change.”

The Better for Women report can be found at: http://www.rcog.org.uk/better-for-women/

Tags: NHS | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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