Reflecting on my first two months as President of FSRH

Posted 17 Nov 2022

Date: 17 Nov 2022

Author: Dr Janet Barter

I am delighted to be serving as President of FSRH at what is an exciting time for the Faculty and our members. It has been a very busy first six weeks – from continuing to grow our relationships with advocates and organisations working in sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH), to discussing the issues impacting our members, such as monkeypox. I wanted to share an update for our members on what I’ve been up to...

Championing SRH among policymakers during party conference season

My Presidency began with attending Labour and Conservative Party Conferences. It was a privilege to spend time with colleagues from organisations across to health sector and strengthen our relationships with Parliamentarians who are committed to making improvements in the NHS and across public health.

While at the Labour Party Conference, I spoke with the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Wes Streeting MP, and the Shadow Minister for Primary Care and Patient Safety, Feryal Clark MP. Conversation was focussed on promoting the Goals set out in the FSRH Hatfield Vision and emphasise the need for political leadership on the issue of women’s reproductive health.

I was pleased to also take part in a workshop session on the future of the NHS organised by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC), leading the discussion in a breakout group with Feryal Clark and Chair of the AoMRC Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard among others. I also joined a roundtable event led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) as a panellist, where I raised many of the current challenges in delivering high quality reproductive health, and engaged with many healthcare professionals and local government councillors in attendance.

Moving onto Conservative Party Conference – I was delighted to meet with Baroness Liz Sugg, who led on parliamentary efforts earlier this year to maintain access to telemedicine for Early Medical Abortion. We discussed the policy changes still needed within abortion care – including establishing buffer zones around clinics – and the work of the SACHA study, which is creating an evidence base to guide new directions in abortion care in the UK.

I particularly enjoyed participating in fringe events to ensure the voice of FSRH and our members was heard by leading politicians. This included pressing a Government health Minister on the state of public health funding after years of cuts and the impact on access to SRH services.

It was fantastic to receive positive feedback from other organisations in the audience at such events – a reminder of the importance of collaboration in our efforts to drive improved outcomes for women and others accessing SRH services.

Collaborating with partners

I have also been delighted to represent FSRH at various stakeholder and partner meetings. During my first week as President, I attended a meeting of the English HIV and Sexual Health Commissioners’ Group. The Group convenes commissioners of sexual health, reproductive health and HIV in England, including officials from the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and the Women’s Health Ambassador. We discussed the pressing challenges facing commissioners, including funding, and key policy developments such as the SRH Action Plan.

This month I joined my first meeting of the Advisory Group on Contraception (the AGC). The AGC is an expert group made up of leading clinicians and organisations working in women’s health, focused on the improvements needed in contraceptive care. I shared my views on the need for a continued focus on choice in the provision of contraception alongside other aspects of SRH, as part of engagement with the Government’s SRH Action Plan; it is crucial that policymakers understand there is still much work to be done here.

I have also attended regular sector meetings with OHID to discuss priority issues for the SRH community, and help minimise the impact of monkeypox on SRH services. Sharing with such bodies the views and experiences of those working to deliver care on the ground – as raised in our member surveys – is key to effecting policy change and I am pleased to have the opportunity to do so as part of these meetings.

Speaking out on issues that matter to FSRH’s members

Over the past two months, I have also championed FSRH’s position on a number of important issues relating to access to SRH.

Along with abortion care providers working in Northern Ireland, I met with the Government’s Northern Ireland Office to discuss progress in establishing a comprehensive abortion service in the region. This followed our response to the Government’s announcement that it will be making funding available. I was delighted to hear that the Government will be writing to Trusts within the next few weeks to instruct that abortion services are set up – a huge victory, following years of campaigning from across the SRH community.

As we have heard from members, the monkeypox outbreak is having a major impact in some areas – resulting in a reduction on clinical time available for SRH. We have consistently called for SRH services to be adequately resourced so that they can effectively tackle monkeypox without compromising essential SRH care. I recently co-signed a joint letter with partner organisations, including the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), to the Government and NHS England regarding the impact of unfunded monkeypox activity on SRH.

I was also pleased to see FSRH actively supporting this year’s World Contraception Day we published a statement focused on the need to see the FSRH Hatfield Vision Goals focused on improving access to contraception reflected in the SRH Action Plan. We were also a partner organisation of Brook’s Sexual Health Week 2022 in October, calling on the Government to address the barriers to holistic SRH care and ensure greater equality in SRH outcomes.

I am keen to continue building on FSRH’s advocacy efforts to significantly reduce health inequalities for all women and girls by 2030 – in line with the central ambition of the FSRH Hatfield Vision. I look forward to collaborating with partners across the SRH community and health system to drive meaningful action to see this ambition realised.

Finally,

Finally, I wanted to thank all our members for the work they do delivering excellent SRH all over the country. It was a privilege to visit members of FSRH at services in Liverpool recently and I am keen to meet with other members to learn about their day-to-day work, as well as any challenges they are facing in delivering care. If you would be interested in myself or another FSRH representative visiting your service, please do get in contact via the details below.

I am delighted to have started my work as President of FSRH and will continue to seek to represent all members.

If you are interested in arranging a visit to your service, please get in contact via Helen Davies at hdavies@fsrh.org.