Medical stigmas and the menopause are at the forefront of the government’s plan for tackling health gender inequality.
It comes after research found that at least eight in 10 women have felt they were not listened to by health care professionals, and that services for specialities or female-only conditions are lower priority than others.
Many of the more than 110,000 respondents also felt that damaging taboos and stigmas in women’s health prevented them from seeking help, and over half said they felt uncomfortable talking about health issues with their workplace.
Nearly two in three with a health condition or disability said they do not feel supported by the services available, while most believe compulsory training for GPs on women’s health – including the menopause – is needed.
The findings have led to the Vision for Women’s Health, which aims to ensure women feel comfortable talking about health matters and are supported, both in the workplace and by health services.
It also aims to ensure that all women have access to high quality health education throughout their lives, and services that correctly meet their needs.
Other policies in the plan include the appointment of a women’s health ambassador to raise awareness of the issues and taboo topics, and banning hymenoplasty at the earliest opportunity.
The government has previously committed to banning virginity testing and increasing accessibility to hormone replacement therapy, by cutting the cost of such prescriptions.
While the new Vision for Women’s Health is specific to England, a UK-wide menopause taskforce is also being established to investigate how women going through the menopause can be better supported by the health system.
Minister for women’s health, Maria Caulfield, said: “The responses from the call for evidence were in many ways as expected, particularly with regards to women’s priorities, but in some places the revelations were shocking.
“It is not right that over three quarters of women feel the healthcare service has not listened. This must be addressed.
“Many of the issues raised require long-term system-wide changes, but we must start somewhere.”