The NHS is the biggest employer of women in the country – one million people work for the NHS and up to 260,000 could be approaching or going through menopause, and for many it can be a difficult transition.
It is therefore normal that we act to support them.
Women approaching or going through menopause shouldn’t have to endure the discomfort at work or the shame of talking about a transition that’s just part of life.
With symptoms ranging from muscle and joint pain to hot flashes, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and brain fog, it obviously has a huge impact on your ability to work and go about your daily business.
Yet it is still a taboo subject, with many women suffering in silence – feeling too embarrassed to talk about it, or feeling unsupported when they do.
In fact, we know that six out of 10 women who experience menopausal symptoms say it negatively impacts their work and research shows that one in 10 women quit their job when they don’t want to because they don’t want to. appropriate support.
This must stop.
No woman should feel like her only option is to turn her back on her career, and it’s our responsibility as leaders to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Menopause is not a health issue, it is a stage of life, and I want all women going through this transition in the NHS to have access to the right support to stay and thrive at work.
That’s why we’ve launched new national guidelines to help women through menopause – to raise awareness and help teams put practical measures in place in the workplace.
Simple steps like flexible work patterns, fans to help make temperatures more comfortable, cooler uniforms and staff training can make a big difference and I want that to happen at every level.
This is not just a matter of respect for our staff, but an investment in our workforce, future sustainability and quality 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.
And so helping women stay in work is absolutely vital in helping us meet the challenges ahead for the NHS.
We face a busy winter period with the threat of a twin epidemic – with influenza and covid – and we must continue to make progress on pandemic backlogs, having already virtually eliminated two-year waits for care.
Our advice has been intentionally designed to be transferable to other workplaces too, so I hope organizations and women beyond the NHS can also benefit from it.
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 work than not, as the proportion of older women in employment jumped by 51% in a decade.
So while we should 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, it can also lead to better patient outcomes.
There is already fantastic work being done locally within the NHS to support women with 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 offer workplace adjustments including providing ventilators, lighter uniforms and changes in work habits.
In Norfolk, Queen Elizabeth Hospital offers specific training for managers and staff, holds regular menopause clinics led by a consultant and a nurse, and has been accredited by Henpicked as a menopause-friendly place to work – becoming the one of the first companies in the UK to include this in their job descriptions.
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust have created a closed Facebook group where colleagues share their experiences and support, and host menopause network meetings, with guest speakers such as gynecologists present to educate and raise awareness.
Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust has developed and implemented its own menopause strategy and since its launch has extended occupational health references to include menopause and stress or anxiety.
These small steps can make a huge difference.
Although menopause is a stage in life, it shouldn’t be seen as “just” a stage in life where women need to smile and bear it.
We need to break the stigma, talk about the burden menopause can bring, and most importantly, 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 benefit from these new guidelines and take action to support the hundreds of thousands of women across the country.
And in the NHS, it’s right that we take care of the women who work every day to help others.
Amanda Pritchard is the chief executive of NHS England