Health and Social Care Secretary announces women's health priorities for 2024

Launch of national online survey on women’s health

The UK government has launched a survey encouraging women to “help shape reproductive health policy by sharing their experiences”.

The national survey will “gather vital data on women’s menstrual health, contraception, pregnancy planning and menopause”, helping to deliver on “key commitment to ensure the health and care system prioritises women’s voices”. The findings are to inform current and future government decision-making and health policy.

It is also hoped that the new survey will play a role in changing “disparities in women’s health across the country, and far too many cases where women’s voices are not being heard”.

The survey will be open to all women in England aged 16 to 55 years and will run for a period of six weeks, from 7 September 2023. Questions will ask women to share information on issues including pain during periods, preferences in accessing contraceptive services, and satisfaction with any support received for menopausal symptoms.

Maria Caulfield, minister for women’s health strategy, said: “Women and girls deserve the best healthcare at every stage of their lives, but we simply cannot deliver that without listening to their lived experiences and concerns. Women should always have a say in their own healthcare, whether that’s in managing pregnancy and fertility or dealing with the challenges of the menopause in the workplace. I would encourage every woman to complete the survey on reproductive health as soon as they’re able and ensure their voice is heard.”

Dr Rebecca French, associate professor of sexual and reproductive health research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Women have previously described difficulties accessing reproductive health services – for example, to get contraceptive supplies, to access fertility treatment or to obtain an appointment with a gynaecologist. Often health services are not ‘joined up’, leading to multiple visits and appointment delays. We know that poor reproductive health not only has a negative effect on health in general but can also impact women’s mental health, relationships and finances. Further research is needed to better understand inequalities across England so that women and people described as female at birth are able to make the choices they need for their own reproductive health and wellbeing.”

Earlier this year, a study from University College London highlighted that current healthcare services only view women as either pregnant or not pregnant, omitting the in-between stages and attempts at conception.

In Scotland, a research project looking into women’s experiences of discrimination in health, highlighted four overarching themes or how parts of women’s identities could be used by health professionals for not investigating.