These are common long-term conditions that can have a significant impact on a woman’s life, and I am aware of and sympathise with the hardships faced by women who experience severe symptoms. I believe it is important to raise awareness of the impact on women worldwide.
To provide support, all obstetricians and gynaecologists have been trained in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions; it is a core part of their training. The NHS has published clinical guidelines on the management of endometriosis, and PCOS, to assist doctors. While there is currently no cure, there are several options for treatment and ways that individuals can alter their lifestyle to improve symptoms. NHS England has also developed units for severe endometriosis, with the expectation that all units provide women with severe endometriosis with care which meets the needs of each individual woman. I believe it is essential that care of this kind is specialised to a woman’s unique needs, and I know that Ministers want to empower people to shape and manage their own health and care and make meaningful choices.
I agree that swift diagnosis helps to ensure women are able to access the treatment and support that they need as quickly as possible. However, I understand that there are currently no plans to reduce the diagnosis time for endometriosis. Given the highly invasive nature of the diagnostic procedure and the varying degree to which women experience symptoms, it can be more appropriate to treat mild symptoms on clinical grounds and reserve a laparoscopy with its inherent risks for women with more significant symptoms. While I know that this will not be what you were hoping for, I would certainly be happy to work to raise awareness of the condition and its symptoms to ensure women are empowered to seek help when they experience endometriosis.
I welcome the work of Endometriosis UK and Verity, the UK PCOS Charity, to raise awareness of these conditions, as well as providing sufferers with further information and access to clinical trials and the latest research. Medical Research is funded through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). In the last five financial years, I am encouraged to learn that the NIHR and UKRI have awarded £8.52 million for research into endometriosis and £6.60 million for research into PCOS. This includes a wide range of projects, from basic science through to applied health research into diagnosis, treatment and service delivery. It is important that women with these conditions play a vital role in this research and I am glad to learn that this is already the case. I welcome that this vitally important issue will be discussed in Parliament at the upcoming Westminster Hall Debate. However, while I am unable to attend this debate myself, I will ensure that ministers are aware of the points raised with me.
Finally, the Government launched a consultation to help inform the priorities, content and actions of England’s first Women’s Health Strategy, with questions on gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis. I am told that analysis of the evidence gathered is underway with a view to publishing the strategy later this year. This is a most welcome development and I look forward to learning more about these plans.