Norfolk health leader says women's problems dismissed as 'benign'

Edward Morris and NNUH

Edward Morris, president of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and consultant gynaecologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust - Credit: Archant/NNUH

Women's health problems are often dismissed as "benign" by doctors and are "deprioritised" within the NHS, a Norfolk health leader has said.

The statement comes amid surging gynaecology waiting lists in the UK with more than half a million patients waiting to be seen.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital consultant blamed "institutionalised gender bias" as playing a part in a new paper.

Waiting lists for conditions like endometriosis, prolapse, and heavy bleeding are up 60pc – a greater proportion than in any other area of medicine in the past two years, according to the president of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Edward Morris, as reported in The Guardian.

Dr Morris, who is a consultant gynaecologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said institutionalised gender bias has meant the term “benign” has become widely used in gynaecology and, as a result, conditions have been “normalised” by non-specialists and deprioritised within the NHS, according to the paper.

“We have to change the language. We have to call it what it is,” he told the Guardian.

“These conditions cause huge amounts of suffering to women. Being lumped in a topic called benign gynaecology downplays the importance and suffering.”

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He said the term "benign gynaecology" is no longer used at the city's hospital, adding: “There is a perception in many areas of the NHS that if there is a benign gynaecology surgery list, that’s a list that can be cancelled.”

A report published by the RCOG in April revealed gynaecology waiting lists across the UK had reached a combined figure of over 570,000 women across the UK – over a 60pc increase on pre-pandemic levels.

The number of women waiting over a year for care in England had increased from 66 before the pandemic to nearly 25,000.

Among the recommendations made following the report was a call for a shift in the way gynaecology is prioritised as a specialty across the health service, including action to move away from using the term “benign” to describe gynaecological conditions.

Dr Morris called for more funding for research into women’s health and clinics that would offer cervical screening, contraceptive implants and advice on menopause and menstrual health.