Women’s health plan aims to reduce avoidable inequalities

Health Minister Maree Todd said the plan would focus on abortion services, sexual health, menopause, menstrual health and heart disease.

Women’s health plan aims to reduce avoidable inequalities PA Media
Maree Todd said the plan, which has been in development for the last 18 months, will initially focus on some key priorities.

A women’s health plan published by the Scottish Government will aim to “reduce avoidable inequalities”, health minister Maree Todd has said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made mention of the plan when she announced her administration’s intentions for the first 100 days of the new parliamentary term.

Speaking in Holyrood on Tuesday, Todd said the plan, which has been in development for the last 18 months, will initially focus on some key priorities.

Improving abortion services, contraception and sexual health, menopause and menstrual health and women’s heart health will be the focus initially.

“These reasons and many others are why within 100 days of this new term, we will publish a women’s health plan,” she said.

“The plan will reduce avoidable inequalities in health outcomes for women throughout their lives.”

A survey, Todd said, has already been carried out to ensure women’s voices are heard in the development of the plan.

“We want to give women a say in how we shape services for the future and it’s absolutely crucial that we listen to women and that we trust women,” she told MSPs.

The minister added that the plan would take a holistic, “life course” approach to health, and will emphasise “the importance of protecting and promoting health at key stages of life”.

Effective communication, Todd said, would allow women to be able to make informed decisions about their own health and put an end to the “doctor knows best” approach.

Annie Wells, the Scottish Conservatives’ health spokeswoman, said an “urgent and renewed focus” on women’s health was needed.

“The Scottish Conservatives have welcomed the Government’s commitment to a women’s health plan,” she said.

“We on these benches look forward to the opportunity to carefully scrutinise the Government’s plan following its publication.”

Wells tabled an amendment to the Government’s motion on Tuesday, which called for a ring-fenced fund to be set up to tackle the treatment times backlog caused by the pandemic.

Scottish Labour MSP, Carol Mochan, argued that the SNP Government’s record on women’s health “isn’t even close to acceptable” and raised the issue of women affected by the vaginal mesh scandal.

She said: “An absolutely necessary step is to recognise today as an opportunity to right the wrongs suffered by Scotland’s mesh survivors and give a guarantee that they will be able to access the compensation they deserve.

“If we can help this group of women, we can give hope to those who believe their own concerns have been forgotten, that things can change for the better.

“Today in this Parliament, let’s use the powers for ones to redress the balance for a group of people who have no institutional power, just their own solidarity, compassion, and desire for justice.

“I know that the SNP claim to support this, in principle, but so far they have come up with more excuses than solutions.

“It is long past time we got this done and delivered the vital funding to these women so that they can get back to some sense of normality and not feel left behind by an establishment that seems distanced from their lives.”

Scottish Green MSP, Gillian Mackay, added: “Women are more likely to have heart disease misdiagnosed, they’re more likely to have their physical symptoms either dismissed entirely or put down to their mental health.

“My own parents, for example, were told when I first started experiencing symptoms of my disability, that I was embellishing my hearing loss and that the dizziness I was experiencing was probably the link to my periods or stress.

“Women need to be believed when they go for help.

“Being told that your physical pain is all in your mind will undoubtedly stop you from trying to access healthcare in the future.”