Women’s health ‘not priority area’ researchers admit – and it’s impacting medical and legal outcomes
Women are being left at the “back of the queue” when it comes to their health, medical researchers have claimed.
Reproductive health problems such as menstruation, bleeding disorders, incontinence and menopause are “hidden” in society, meaning they are not prioritised when it comes to research, Professor Hilary Critchley, fellow at Academy of Medical Sciences said.
She was speaking at Women and Equalities Committee on November 29 where MPs had gathered to question research bodies on improving treatment of women’s reproductive health conditions.
Women’s health is ‘not a priority’ to the Medical Research Council
During the questioning there was a heated exchange between Dr Robin Buckle from the Medical Research Council and the chair, Caroline Nokes MP. Dr Buckle admitted the MRC has not “targeted women’s health in particular”, because it is “not proven to be a priority area for us, above and beyond other priority areas”.
Professor Lucy Chappell, chief executive officer at National Institute of Health and Care Research added: “I think women being put at the back of the queue reflects many wider societal issues, and I think we want to see how to ensure there are not cliff edges.”
You can watch the full exchange here.
Why does this matter?
Research into women’s health is severely lacking, this was agreed by most of the panellists on the committee. The chair pointed out there has been five times the amount of research into male erectile dysfunction then into menstrual conditions.
The lack of medical research is having an impact on clinical outcomes. During the questioning Dr Richardson from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) explained the guidance that is put out by NICE relating to women’s health does have gaps. She explained that the reasons for the gaps in guidance is because the research has not been done and therefore, they cannot produce guidance without evidence.
This is hugely significant due to the importance of NICE guidelines. These guidelines are used by the NHS, charities, voluntary and community organisations, care homes, local government and other relevant organisations.
NICE guidelines are also important in a legal context. In R (Elizabeth Rose) v Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group (2014) Justice Jay ruled that the CCG could not depart from the NICE guidance simply for disagreeing with the guidance. Therefore, in the context of a legal claim, if the NICE guidelines are not considered or applied by medical practitioners then they are likely to be found negligent.
It’s vital women’s health is prioritised
If the NICE guidelines on women’s health are not up to date and comprehensive this can not only have an impact on clinical outcomes but also on any potential legal claims. Therefore, it is vital that research into women’s health is prioritised. The current medical research community seems to be disregarding 51% of the population and that is unacceptable.
At Bolt Burdon Kemp we think it’s crucially important that women’s health is recognised and we will continue pushing for more to be done to support the cause.