Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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113. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to expand awareness of, access to and affordability of menopause supports and treatments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16798/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The Government recognises that menopause is a key health issue for women in Ireland today. Work is underway to drive progress in this area which is being driven by the Women’s Health Taskforce. The Taskforce was convened in September 2019, to improve health outcomes and health experiences for women and girls.

The issue of menopause has also been emphasised through the nationwide “Radical Listening” exercise carried out by the Women’s Health Taskforce. This exercise enabled women across the country to share their views and experiences of the health sector and health services. This was a large-scale consultation process intended to maximise the participation of women across all life stages from 18 years upwards, including minority and disadvantaged women.

278 women participated in open interviews and workshops, where menopause was a recurring theme. Through this process, the taboo around discussing menopause, and a lack of trusted information, were consistently raised as key issues for women experiencing menopause. I published a report on the findings of the ‘Radical listening’ exercise last September.

Significant activity is currently underway to enhance the supports available to perimenopausal women. Last September I announced my commitment to establish dedicated specialist menopause clinics across Ireland. These clinics will form a core part of a new approach to menopause care for women in Ireland and will be supported by enhanced community and primary care supports as well as the publication of targeted and trusted sources of information for women experiencing menopause.

While the majority of women who seek support for their menopause can be effectively supported within primary care by their GP, approximately 25% of symptomatic women will require specialist medical expertise in menopause. Specifically, this cohort of women will fall within four broad categories:

- Treatment does not improve their menopausal symptoms;

- They have on-going troublesome side effects e.g. bleeding;

- They have contra-indications to HRT; and

- There is uncertainty about the most suitable treatment option for their menopausal symptoms e.g. complex medical history.

The intention is that these more complex cases can be dealt with in a number of specialist menopause clinics being developed around the country.

Last December I announced the opening of the first specialist menopause clinic in the National Maternity Hospital. The clinic is multidisciplinary, supported by GPs with a certified special interest in the area of menopause and by clinical nurse/midwife specialists. In addition to seeing women who meet the clinical criteria for referral to the service, the clinical team also provides advice and guidance to GPs in the community to support the effective management of menopausal symptoms for women closer to home within primary care.

Building on this development, Budget 2022 provided further commitment to a focused approach in menopause care with funding for three further specialist menopause clinics, to bring the number of clinics nationally to four. Once in place, specialist menopause clinics will be provided in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Cork working to complement the menopause support available to women in their community.

Additional activity underway and planned in the area of menopause includes:

- GP training is a key aspect of women receiving the best care through menopause. The Irish College of GPs are active members of the Women's Health Taskforce and continue to be engaged on how women's health can be better considered within the primary care setting. Relevant activity includes the collaboration between ICGP and the British Menopause Society to develop training in menopause management, which is currently in place; an ICGP Women’s Health Webinar on menopause and endometriosis which was held in June 2021 and had 1567 attendees; and a GP Education course which was established in September 2021 in the area of Community Gynaecology which includes menopause as a topic. Funding has been provided through the Women's Health Fund to develop a 'quick reference guide' for GPs on the menopause, to support primary care provision in this area.

I have also outlined my support for a new ICGP post of Clinical Lead for Women’s Health in General Practice, the first such post in Ireland. This will enable the development of a comprehensive life-course approach to women’s health in General Practice.

- A number of health topics relating to women's health, including menopause, have recently been updated and are now live on the HSE A-Z webpage. This information is an important first step towards delivering enhanced information and education on menopause. A public information webinar on the menopause was held on November 29th, 2021.

- A civil service webinar on 'Menopause at work' was held on October 18th2021, and further HR training to better understand the challenges and solutions for supporting women in their menopause journey within the civil service was held on November 30th2021.

- The Healthy Workplace Framework is due to be published in the coming months. Following publication, an Implementation Group will be established with responsibility for developing an action plan. A representative from Women’s Health will be included on the Implementation Group to ensure the needs of women in the workplace are incorporated. This has particular reference to increased awareness of menopause within the workplace.

In addition to the activity outlined above, menopause will continue to be a priority for my department and this Government for 2022 through targeted funding for menopause projects via the Women’s Health Fund and implementation of the Women’s Health Action Plan 2022-2023.


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