Why I despair at our sexist NHS, by health minister Nadine Dorries

Why I despair at our NHS: Former health minister Nadine Dorries says sexism is rife in the system and urges women to stand up to doctors who try to ‘fob us off’

  • Nadine Dorries accused many doctors of failing to listen to female patients
  • She said health service had been guilty of ‘shutting down’ complaints by women
  • Mrs Dorries, a former nurse, added that doctors too often deny vital help for menopausal women and refuse to prescribe Hormone Replacement Therapy

The NHS is sexist and women should challenge doctors who fob them off, a health minister said yesterday.

In an extraordinary interview, Nadine Dorries accused many doctors of failing to listen to female patients.

She said the health service had been guilty of ‘shutting down’ complaints by women over their care.

Mrs Dorries, a former nurse, added that doctors too often deny vital help for menopausal women and refuse to prescribe Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – giving out antidepressants instead.

And she revealed she had herself been ‘fobbed off’ by doctors when she sought treatment.

In an extraordinary interview, Nadine Dorries accused many doctors of failing to listen to female patients

Concerns about the mis-selling of IVF treatment have led to a crackdown on fertility clinic practices.

The competition watchdog has created new tough guidelines for clinics and patients, highlighting that some clinics are wrongly offering women a ‘guaranteed baby’ or claiming to be ‘number one in the UK for success rates’.

Centres which give the impression their success rates are better than the reality are likely to be in breach of consumer law, according to the Competition and Markets Authority. Prices can exceed £20,000 for a cycle of IVF.

The new guidelines state: ‘Clinics should not be advertising misleadingly low headline prices to attract patients.’

Centres which break any laws in their business practices could be taken to court, or made to give financial compensation to wronged couples.

Dr Raj Mathur, chairman of the British Fertility Society, which represents members of the private fertility sector and the NHS, said: ‘We are absolutely clear that clinics should represent success rates in a responsible way in line with the regulations.’

 

The outspoken comments come as the Government urges women to give evidence about their care to shape a new strategy on the future of women’s health.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Mrs Dorries was asked by presenter Emma Barnett whether the NHS system was sexist. She replied: ‘I think it is to a degree. The core theme of most of the reports we have are, ‘Women are not listened to’.

‘I’ve experienced that myself, I know how it happens, I know how the system shuts down a complaint, shuts down a woman who has issues with either treatment or surgery or a wrong diagnosis.’

The health minister added: ‘Male is the default in health – we want women to be our priority. I can’t even count the number of times women have told me that rather than being prescribed HRT they’re given antidepressants.’

Mrs Dorries called on women to have more confidence to challenge doctors if they do not believe they are being listened to.

‘What I’m trying to do is empower women to have the confidence to go into a doctors’ and challenge what the doctor is saying to them,’ she said. ‘I honestly believe we need to take that responsibility.’

She told the programme there had been ‘unconscious biases against women since the beginning of time’. Certain biases ‘get into the people who are working within the system’ despite large numbers of women working in the NHS, she said.

The minister listed a range of reports which exposed the way the NHS had failed women, including the Cumberlege review into the misuse of pelvic mesh and hormone pregnancy tests, and the inquiry into breast surgeon Ian Paterson who was convicted of wounding women.

‘It’s always women at the bottom of an inquiry or something that is going wrong within the NHS,’ she said. 

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Mrs Dorries was asked by presenter Emma Barnett whether the NHS system was sexist. She replied that she thinks it is ‘to a degree’ (pictured: Mrs Dorries when she was a young nurse) 

Mrs Dorries, a former nurse, added that doctors too often deny vital help for menopausal women and refuse to prescribe Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – giving out antidepressants instead (stock image)

The minister added: ‘My point was to women: don’t be fobbed off. It happened to me… I was fobbed off, don’t be fobbed off.’ A Department of Health spokesman would not say what personal instance Mrs Dorries had been referring to.

The call for evidence on the women’s health strategy will close this Sunday. Already 100,000 women, organisations, clinicians and carers have responded.

As well as health issues specific to women, the strategy will look at the different ways in which women experience health issues that affect both sexes.

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