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MPs urge Government to scrap HRT charges and diagnose menopause earlier

Pharmacy News

MPs urge Government to scrap HRT charges and diagnose menopause earlier

The Government should “urgently” scrap HRT prescription costs in England and offer all women a health check at 45 to help “diagnose menopause at an earlier stage,” a grouping of MPs has said. 

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause published its report today after a year-long inquiry on the impact of menopause on women and potential policy reforms to support them. It called for the Government to go beyond a past commitment to help women save on prescription costs through longer prescribing cycles, and scrap the charges completely.

“We found that women themselves are often not equipped with the information they need to understand what is happening to them and their bodies,” says the APPG in the report foreword, adding that the lack of awareness and understanding from medics “has meant that many suffer without their symptoms being recognised”.

In addition to free prescriptions and health checks, the report urges the Government to fund research into “the real benefits of HRT” and the “link between menopause and serious health conditions,” as well as the creation of a national formulary for HRT and updated menopause training for GPs and other healthcare professionals.

The APPG said the impact of menopause in the workplace “was one of the areas that attracted the most interest during the inquiry”. The report calls for an employer-led campaign as well as improved guidance “to drive up support for menopause in the workplace”.

Commenting on how the health service can be reformed to support women going through the menopause, the report says: “As noted in the Women’s Health Strategy, there are many other parts of our health system that can be further empowered to support women.

“This could include specialist menopause nurses in GPs, pharmacist support, and even a much-improved NHS website for those seeking information.”

The report also criticises what it describes as “scare stories” around the links between HRT and cancer, claiming that while evidence has linked some types of HRT to breast cancer “this has been overexagerrated and stated out of contest”.

NICE announced in May that it planned to update its guidance on managing menopause in light of a 2019 update from the MHRA that found all HRT treatments except vaginal estrogens led to a higher risk of breast cancer than was previously thought.  

Menopause APPG chair and Labour MP Carolyn Harris said: “We are beginning to feel the tide of change but the taboo around the menopause still prevails in all corners of society – in workplaces, within families and among friends, in education, and in the medical profession.

“Access to HRT remains a postcode lottery for women in the UK and there is a stark divide between those who can afford to seek treatment elsewhere, and those who cannot. 

“We urge the new minister and Government to give the menopause the attention it is due and take forward the recommendations in our report for the sake of women across the country.”

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