The NHS is the largest employer of women in the country – one million work for the NHS and up to 260,000 may be approaching or going through menopause, and for many, this can be a difficult transition.
So it is only right that we take steps to support them.
Women who are approaching or going through menopause shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable at work or feel shame about talking about a transition that is simply a part of life.
With symptoms ranging from muscle aches and joint pain, to hot flashes, anxiety, sleep difficulties and brain fog – this obviously has a huge impact on your ability to work and go about your daily life .
However, this is still a taboo subject, with many women suffering in silence – feeling too embarrassed to bring it up or facing a lack of support when they do.
In fact, we know that six in 10 women experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on their work, and research shows that one in 10 women leave the workplace when they don’t want to because of a lack of adequate support.
This has to stop.
No woman should feel like their only option is to turn their backs on their careers, and it’s our responsibility as leaders to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Menopause is not a health condition, it is a stage of life and I want all women facing this transition in the NHS to have access to the right support to stay and thrive in the workplace.
That’s why we’ve launched new national guidance to help women through the menopause – to raise awareness and support teams to implement practical measures in the workplace.
Simple steps like flexible working patterns, fans to help raise temperatures more comfortably, cooler uniforms and staff training can make a big difference and I want to see this happen everywhere.
This is not just a matter of respect for our staff, but an investment in our workforce, future sustainability and quality of patient care.
It’s no secret that the NHS needs more workers – with around 130,000 vacancies, retaining staff will be a key part of our future workforce plan.
Therefore, supporting women to stay in work is absolutely vital to help us with the challenges ahead for the NHS.
We face a busy winter with the threat of two epidemics – flu and covid – and must continue to make progress on the pandemic backlog, having already virtually eliminated two-year waits for care.
Our guidance has been deliberately designed to be transferable to other workplaces, so I hope that organizations and women outside the NHS can also benefit.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics in 2020 showed that, for the first time in the UK, there were more women aged 60-64 in the workplace than not, with the proportion of older women holding a work increasing by 51% in a decade.
So while we need to prioritize making women feel better and safer, it also makes sense for the economy.
We also know that when staff are happier and healthier at work, this can lead to better outcomes for patients too.
There is already fantastic work being done locally within the NHS to support women experiencing menopausal symptoms that we can all learn from.
Just last week, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust introduced the first ‘menopause passport’ to support women at this stage of their lives and is offering workplace adjustments including the provision of ventilators, lighter uniforms and changes to working patterns.
In Norfolk, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital offers specific training for managers and staff, runs regular menopause clinics led by a consultant and a nurse, and has been accredited by Henpicked as a menopause-friendly workplace – becoming one of the first companies in the UK to include this thing. in job descriptions.
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust has set up a closed Facebook group where colleagues share experiences and support and organize Menopause Network meetings, with guest speakers such as gynecologists attending to educate and raise awareness.
Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust has developed and implemented its own menopause strategy and since its launch has expanded occupational health referrals to include menopause and stress or anxiety.
These small steps can make a huge difference.
While menopause is a stage of life, it shouldn’t be considered “just” a stage of life that women have to grin and bear.
We need to remove the stigma, talk about the burden menopause can bring and, crucially, increase support and help more women thrive at every stage of their working lives.
Opening the conversation is the first step. I hope to see employers take advantage of this new guidance and take action to support the hundreds of thousands of women across the country.
And in the NHS, it is right to look after the women who work to help care for others every day.
Amanda Pritchard is the chief executive of NHS England