Health minister urged to help women with ‘cruel illness’ that ruins lives

Rachael Hamilton has drawn up a policy paper with proposals designed to help women suffering from endometriosis.

Endometriosis: Scottish health minister urged to help women with ‘cruel illness’ which ruins lives PA Media

“Heartbreaking stories” from women affected by endometriosis have led to demands for the Scottish Government to act to improve care for sufferers.

Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton said the condition can impact on women’s health, careers, education and their relationships.

An estimated one in ten women have endometriosis, which can leave them in pain, suffering from heavy periods and struggling to conceive.

But with the condition sometimes taking years to diagnosis, Hamilton has urged the Scottish Government to act.

After meeting with endometriosis campaigners, the Conservative MSP presented a policy paper, making 11 recommendations for change, to women’s health minister Jenni Minto.

The Scottish Government is being urged to ensure every NHS board has a specialist endometriosis nurse, with specialist clinics also taking place in every region.

In addition, the paper recommended sufferers be given individual treatment plans, including mental health support and nutritional guidance.

Guidance should also be given to schools, colleges and universities on how to help women with the condition.

Tao McCready, of campaign group Endo SOS, told how it had taken her 17 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis – with her condition initially put down to back problems, kidney infections, irritable bowel syndrome and even borderline personality disorder.

She said: “Because I was left for 17 years with no answers, endometriosis affected my fertility. This breaks my heart and I struggle to speak about it, even now.”

Fellow endometriosis sufferer, Becky Leigh, wrote in the paper: “To live with endometriosis doesn’t really feel like living at all.

“Endometriosis is not even being able to find a medical professional who can help, or that doesn’t dismiss you altogether for the average of eight years before diagnosis.”

Ms Hamilton said she was inspired to act after hearing “heartbreaking stories from dozens of women” in her South of Scotland constituency, with the Conservative adding that hearing about the pain they go through “has brought tears to my eyes”.

The MSP said: “This cruel illness has meant that some women have lost jobs, some have missed out on opportunities, some may not be able to have a family.

“It can cost them their health, their careers, their education and their relationships.

“My paper aims to improve treatment options and reduce diagnosis times for women with this horrific condition.

“It includes plans to increase awareness of this disease, which is surprisingly not well known even among some medical professionals.”

She added: “I am determined to help these women any way I can. I hope the Scottish Government will seriously consider these proposals and deliver the urgent action that people suffering from endometriosis deserve.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring those living with endometriosis are able to access the best possible care and support.

“One of the initial priorities of the Women’s Health Plan is to improve access for women to appropriate support, diagnosis and the best treatment for endometriosis.

“We are working intensively with NHS boards to reduce the length of time people are waiting for appointments and treatment and continue to target resources to reduce waiting times, particularly for those waiting longest for treatment, through maximising productivity and additional resources.”

The spokesperson added that all health boards had been informed about a new “care pathway” which “aims to provide a holistic approach and timely care for those with endometriosis and endometriosis-like symptoms and has a clear section on when a referral to tertiary care is required”.

The spokesperson continued: “In 2016, a specialist short-life working group advised that three specialist centres are the optimal approach for complex endometriosis care in Scotland. This is still the advice being provided by specialist endometriosis consultants.

“We have sought advice from endometriosis clinicians who have advised that our focus should be on improving current service provision with an aim to develop a clinical network. We are in the process of scoping potential options.”

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