Making care and health better for women affected by menopause
Video, above: Natasha North is a nurse and health policy specialist. Natasha talks about how her own experience of early menopause inspired her to help start the #changethechange campaign.
Co-founder Hannah Short writes:
For NHS Change Day 2015, I am one of two leads for a campaign centred on menopausal health care: #changethechange. Change is badly needed to challenge existing attitudes, raise awareness of menopause-related health issues and connect both clinicians and patients with reliable, evidence-based information. Our ultimate aim is to inform the public, educate the professionals and empower women.
I am currently a GP registrar at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, and my interest in menopause is borne of both professional and personal motives. Four years ago, as a foundation year trainee on a General Practice placement, my eyes were opened to the poor state of post-reproductive health care and the inadequate knowledge of this area within the general medical field. I could not ignore the number of menopausal patients presenting with a dizzying array of seemingly unrelated symptoms and concerns, asking questions we seemed ill-equipped to answer. I felt strongly that we were failing women as they returned to the surgery time and again. This strength of feeling only deepened when I entered surgical menopause myself at the age of 35.
Being thrown headlong into a hormone-deficient state had its challenges, naturally, but I felt confident that I would know where to turn for support and information. However, it wasn’t long before I was in the bewildered position my patients had occupied only three years previously. And things were worse than I thought. As a health professional I struggled to access accurate, up-to-date resources. I wondered where this left the lay-person, blindly trying to sift reliable, sensible advice from the sea of misinformation that exists.
Whilst menopause isn’t a disease state in itself, it does predispose women to a myriad of chronic health conditions such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, one in four women state that menopausal symptoms affect their quality of life, and 10% of these are still experiencing problematic symptoms after 15 years. A recent survey revealed that one in ten women are so badly affected they consider quitting their job. This is a sobering thought for patients, employers and the NHS – especially when we consider that, with an average age of 43, women encompass 77% of the latter’s workforce.
For NHS Change Day 2015, we are asking NHS professionals to take action to #changethechange. We are asking people to:
Action 1: Get together. Join a new online community for everyone interested in improving menopause services. The Change Forum has been created as somewhere for health professionals of all disciplines, health service leaders and service managers to get together and learn, share and talk about how to #changethechange It can be lonely out there.
Come and meet the other menopause enthusiasts:
Action 2: Get the facts If you got your last professional update on menopause anytime in the last decade, the chances are that everything you think you know about HRT is wrong. We are asking health professionals to commit to getting the facts using the links here Don’t miss the brand new material provided by the Cochrane Centre as part of their Evidently Cochrane blog. And pop to healthtalk.org/menopause to see more about real women’s experiences of menopause.
Action 3: Get menopause on the agenda. We need to talk about The Big M, especially in the NHS. We are asking you to commit to putting menopause on the agenda for discussion at your team meeting, your directorate meeting, or your board meeting. The two infographics here are a great conversation starter.