Doctors too often “ignore” women’s pain, Sajid Javid said as he called for change in the wake of the Shrewsbury maternity scandal.
Writing for The Telegraph, the Health Secretary said the wider NHS needed to do much more to listen to women, adding that too many are left in pain and ignored by clinicians.
On Wednesday, the Ockenden report revealed that the deaths of 201 babies and nine mothers at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust could have been avoided, citing a failure to listen to women.
A leadership review is examining how best to improve standards of management and prevent a “revolving door” of failed managers.
Ideas under consideration include a register of managers, meaning they could be struck off for failing in their professional duties in the same way doctors and nurses can have their licences revoked.
‘Issues across whole of health and care system’
Mr Javid wrote: “This week we have seen the tragic reality of what can happen when women’s voices are not listened to when it comes to their care.
“Donna Ockenden’s report into maternity failings at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals raises specific concerns for maternity services, but more widely we must address issues across the whole of the health and care system when it comes to listening to women’s concerns and recognising their pain.”
In the joint piece with Maria Caulfield, the minister for women’s health, Mr Javid welcomed a “shift in the way we talk about women’s health”, with more open discussions about areas once seen as taboo.
But the pair said more needed to be done – specifically to improve the treatment of endometriosis, an extremely painful gynaecological condition.
“We must ensure all women feel confident in going to their GP when they experience symptoms of endometriosis and, when they do, that they are listened to,” they said. Too many were “spending too long in pain waiting for a diagnosis, often feeling ignored by clinicians”, they warned.
Supporting people with endometriosis
Three in four women have heard of endometriosis – a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows elsewhere inside the body – often around reproductive organs, bowel and bladder, a survey found, but almost half of men do not know what it is.
The ministers wrote: “Men also have an important role to play in supporting people with endometriosis. We owe it to the women in our lives to take the time to understand how we can support people with endometriosis who may be silently suffering.”
Later this year the Government will publish a women’s health strategy, which will examine issues including fertility, menopause, and prevention and treatment of diseases.
Ministers have been praised for recent changes to cut the prescription costs of HRT.
But Government plans to end a “pills-by-post” home abortion service introduced during the pandemic were met with a backlash from women’s groups. On Wednesday, MPs voted to keep the system when it went to a free vote.
Mr Javid was among those voting to bring the system to an end, with Theresa May, the former Prime Minister, among the Tories voting for it to be retained.