KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 – Since the start of the pandemic, gynaecology waiting lists across the United Kingdom have grown by 59 per cent to over 570,000, according to a report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and LCP Health Analytics.
RCOG president Dr Edward Morris said this is due to doctors’ dismissal of women’s debilitating health problems as “benign”, reports The Guardian.
In the past two years, the waiting lists for conditions such as endometriosis, prolapse, and heavy bleeding have risen in significant proportions, compared to other areas of medicine, he said.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb begins to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian. It is a long-term condition that causes pain in a number of circumstances, and can have a significant impact on a person’s life.
Pelvic organ prolapse is when one or more of the organs in the pelvis slip down from their normal position and bulge into the vagina. This condition can cause pain and discomfort.
While the term “benign” is typically used in a medical context to refer to a non-cancerous diagnosis or condition, Morris said the term was more normalised and widely used in the area of gynaecology because of institutionalised gender bias.
As such, hospitals have regarded “benign gynaecology” surgery lists as being easy to cancel in an effort to tackle rising pandemic waiting lists, he said.
In England, the number of women waiting over a year for treatment has gone from less than one in a thousand women on the waiting list before the pandemic to more than one in 20.
There is also stark geographical variation in the length of gynaecology waiting lists across England, with the Northwest having eight out of the 10 worst affected Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
CCGs are organisations under the National Health System (NHS) of the UK that are responsible for the planning and delivery of health care services in their local area.
Comparing the worst affected CCG with the least affected CCG shows that the worst affected has a waiting list over five times larger than that of the CCG with the lowest waiting list.
In Scotland, there has been a 95 per cent rise, with 40,000 now facing prolonged wait for care. In Wales, there has been a 62 per cent rise with 42,000 women waiting.
Alongside the data, the report also included a survey conducted by the RCOG of 837 women who were waiting for gynaecology care.
The survey revealed that four-fifths (80 per cent) of women said their mental health has worsened due to the wait. One in four of those women whose mental health had deteriorated said it was due to the pain they endured.
More than three quarters (77 per cent) of women said that their ability to work or take part in social activities had been negatively impacted.
Sixty one per cent said they felt despair at the long waits and 63 per cent felt ignored.
“Hundreds of thousands of women with gynaecological conditions across the UK are being forced to tolerate extreme pain and debilitating symptoms because of unacceptable waiting lists for diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr Morris in a statement.
“We believe the reason gynaecology waiting lists have seen the biggest growth is because time and again we see women’s health consistently deprioritised and overlooked.
“At its core it is gender bias and it’s reflective of society as a whole. Women are being let down and change is urgently needed.”