FSRH statement: FSRH welcomes the Women’s Health Strategy Vision

Posted 7 January 2022

Date: 07 Jan 2022

Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) welcomes the publication of a Vision for the Women’s Health Strategy, alongside a summary of survey responses from the Government’s Call for Evidence. The full Strategy is due to be published in Spring 2022 – further to the public consultation closing in June 2021. The Vision is published following engagement FSRH has undertaken in collaboration with key partners to contribute towards its development, alongside conducting direct meetings and correspondence with relevant Ministers and civil servants.

In its Vision, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) sets out that the Women's Health Strategy will take a life course approach, understanding the changing health and care needs of women and girls across their lives and seeking to improve experience and outcomes of care. It recognises contraception, pregnancy, fertility, pregnancy loss, abortion care and postnatal support as a key component of reproductive health needs.

Contraception is discussed as being central to reproductive health needs, with the Government aiming to ensure “women are empowered to make purposeful choices about their reproductive health and care before, during and after pregnancy and pregnancy loss, with support from safe, high-quality health services”.

The document highlights a further ambition to improve women's overall experiences of services and reproductive health outcomes, acknowledging views shared as part of the Strategy’s Call for Evidence that such services are perceived to be of a lower priority compared to others.

In relation to education and information, the Vision sets out an ambition to ensure women are able to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing across the life course and for healthcare professionals to be better supported in implementing clinical guidelines.

The Government commits to working alongside the forthcoming Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy to set out an approach to improving women’s sexual and reproductive health, exploring conditions and areas of healthcare in which disparities are greatest, and working with the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) to encourage joint commissioning and support local systems to explore innovative models of care.

Other Government commitments in the Vision include:

  • Appointment of a Women’s Health Ambassador to listen at a system level and represent the views of women, supporting implementation of the Strategy. 
  • Working to better understand gaps in teachers’ knowledge and materials on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).
  • Implementing the recently-announced reforms to improve menopause care, including measures to reduce the cost of Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Other Government ambitions within the Vision for the Women’s Health Strategy include: 

  • Women feel comfortable talking about their health, whether that be with healthcare professionals, friends or family; women know when they can seek help for symptoms; and women’s health issues are no longer taboo topics.
  • All women feel supported in the workplace, and that taboos are broken down through open conversation.
  • Women’s voices and priorities are at the heart of research, from identification of need through to participation in research, dissemination of research findings, and implementation in practice.

Detailed policy proposals will be included in the full Strategy, once published – along with delivery plans. FSRH will continue to work with key partners in the reproductive healthcare community to ensure both the Women’s Health and SRH Strategies meet their full potential with regards to improving outcomes for girls and women.

Alongside the Vision, responses were collated from the public survey undertaken to help inform the Strategy. Five topics were selected by respondents for the DHSC to prioritise for inclusion in the Women’s Health Strategy: gynaecological conditions; fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and postnatal support; menopause; menstrual health; and mental health.

Access to contraception was listed by respondents as a key access difficulty during COVID-19 with almost three in four stating that the pandemic has had a negative impact on women’s access to healthcare services.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

“FSRH welcomes the publication of the Government’s Vision for the Women’s Health Strategy.

“We have for some time called for a life course approach to women’s reproductive healthcare needs. It is pleasing to see that the Government is listening to the sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) community, recognising the importance of women being able to access joined-up holistic care that meets their reproductive health needs at every stage of their lives.

“We particularly welcome the Government’s commitments to look at supporting local systems to implement joint commissioning and better understand the education and training needs of healthcare professionals – as well as the pledge that the Strategy will focus on the need to reduce disparities between groups of women.

“As is highlighted in the responses to the survey, the fragmented delivery of SRH services means that too many women are unable to access the care they need when they need it. The Women’s Health and SRH Strategies present an opportunity to integrate care around the needs of women, but – to do this effectively – there must be synergy between them.

“We look forward to the publication of the Women’s Health Strategy in the Spring, as well as the publication of the SRH Strategy – setting out the actions that will be taken to ensure the reproductive needs of the 51% of the population are met.”

The Vision Document for the Women’s Health Strategy can be accessed here and the summary of survey responses can be accessed here.