Results from the Department of Health and Social Care Women’s Health Strategy call for evidence were published in April of this year.
For many, the results will come as a surprise, but for our lawyers working with medical negligence claims these statistics align completely with the experiences of our clients.
Sadly, of the respondents 84% of women felt they had not been listened to by their healthcare professional – a common theme we see with many of our clients who have gone on to lose babies, or find their baby is born with a disability as a result of negligent care, such as cerebral palsy. Other women who had their concerns ignored may now live in agony due to TVT mesh, or have endometriosis left undiagnosed for years.
Desire for change
The call for evidence asked respondents to prioritise the areas in which they would most like to see change. The results were:
- gynaecological conditions (63%)
- fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and postnatal support (55%)
- the menopause (48%)
- menstrual health (47%)
- mental health (39%)
The concerns of the public definitely correlate with the proportion of medical negligence claims we receive. A large number are due to gynaecological conditions including TVT mesh and endometriosis, where consent was not obtained or symptoms dismissed as ‘women’s problems’, respectively.
Unfortunately, we see many cases regarding pregnancy; and have had to fight claims for both baby and mum. This includes the mental scars left behind in mothers who have experienced traumatic births because of negligence.
Improving women’s access to health services
What is loud and clear from these results is that not enough women are being listened to and there is a lack of knowledge that turns into stigma around gynaecology, mental health, fertility and women’s health. Women are disproportionately affected by medical negligence and this needs to end.
To improve women’s access to services, respondents put forward a range of suggestions that centred around:
- better education and training of GPs and other healthcare professionals as treatment gatekeepers; and
- an increase in specialists and services to treat women’s health conditions, such as the menopause and endometriosis.
This will come at a cost to the NHS, and it raises the question of how this is going to be funded. However, early intervention and education will help make significant costs savings for the NHS in the long-term. For example, our research showed that on average – across the last decade – the NHS paid more than £450m per year in clinical negligence compensation for cerebral palsy claims alone.
With each claim made, the healthcare profession has learnt lessons. However, this consultation gives hard evidence and a baseline for further and necessary improvements to be made. This can only be a positive step in the right direction for improving women’s health.
With the full strategy expected this year, let’s hope we finally see a real change for women, their babies and families.
Get in touch with us
If you have concerns about negligent care, that you or a family member has received – please get in touch with us on 0808 164 0808. Or, you can request a call back and one of our team will be in touch at a time that suits you.