Women in north-east waiting more than 100 weeks for specialist menopause care

A total of 1,024 referrals have been made by GPs within the NHS Grampian health board area since 2019-20. 

Women in the north-east of Scotland are having to wait up to 107 weeks for specialist menopause care.

Statistics exclusively obtained by Scotland Tonight show NHS Grampian has an average waiting list for menopause clinics of more than two years. 

A total of 1,024 referrals have been made by GPs within the health board area since 2019-20. 

Around 400,000 women in Scotland are of menopause age.

Typically, it affects those between the ages of 45-55, whose periods have stopped as a result of falling hormone levels. 

It can cause a range of symptoms, which can be debilitating and distressing, such as anxiety, hot flushes, mood swings, and brain fog. 

A spokesperson for NHS Grampian said: “An increased public awareness has led to a significant increase in menopause-related referrals in recent years, and this led to a backlog. 

“Quality improvement work is underway across NHS Grampian to address this, led by a number of specialist consultants and now also a specialist nurse. 

“A streamlined vetting process for referrals is now in progress which will dramatically reduce waits. Many referrals can be answered with specialist advice to GPs, and those requiring specialist care for complex needs will be seen as quickly as possible. 

“Those who have been waiting longest due to the backlog of cases have been re-vetted and either offered specialist advice or will be seen during the course of the next few months as a matter of priority. 

“Anyone in need of advice or support while they are waiting should get back in touch with their GP.”

Scotland’s public health minister says she is “very disappointed” that women across the country are facing long waits to access specialist menopause care.

Jenni Minto spoke out after a Scotland Tonight investigation revealed there is a postcode lottery of support. 

The NHS runs specialist menopause clinics in Scotland that offer advice and treatment such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

But Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles don’t have any specialist services.

Women there are instead referred to gynaecology or sexual health clinics, and some in the Western Isles even have to travel to Glasgow. 

In areas that do have menopause clinics, women often face waiting months just for their first appointment. 

Scotland Tonight’s investigation heard one woman had to wait 94 weeks for her first appointment after being referred by her GP.

Minto, the minister for public health and women’s health, said: “I’m very disappointed to hear that women are having to wait as long as they are.

Jenni Minto.STV News

“We are working with health boards and with the menopause specialist network to look at the issues around waiting times for support for women that are experiencing bad menopause symptoms. 

“Every health board has got a menopause specialist area and those on in the islands have also got the opportunity to buddy with support on the mainland. I think that’s incredibly important.”

Former GP Dr Karen Aitken runs a private menopause clinic just outside Glasgow. She says it can be challenging for doctors to properly diagnose and treat the symptoms.

Dr Karen Aitken.STV News

Dr Aitken told Scotland Tonight: “I suppose for GPs the challenge is the time factor first and foremost. 

“Even the most expert doctor is going to struggle to get through that kind of consultation.

“I think if women are accessing their local GP, their difficulty perhaps in accessing that might be geographical. 

“So if you live in a rural area, there may not be as much access to GPs with different expertise as there may be in the central belt.”

Dr Aitken says many women, who ordinarily would not seek private healthcare, feel they now have few other options.

She said: “I find lots of women come in and they spend the beginning of their 45 minutes really quite upset.

“They’ll talk about their family and their relationships and how much their lives have been affected by their symptoms. 

“Having that longer time period to talk is really important.”

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