Women let down by UK ‘gender health gap’

A new study shows the UK’s healthcare system is failing women and Liverpool social enterprise The Women’s Organisation says ‘women’s voices need to be heard’. Jennie Lewis reports

health, doctor, patient, hospital, vaccine, injection, GP, woman
Many women feel let down by the UK healthcare system, the study shows


A major survey into the UK’s healthcare system has revealed it is badly letting down women and girls across the country.

In March last year, women and girls in England were urged to share their experiences of the UK healthcare system in a first-of-its-kind Women’s Health Survey. This followed a growing number of reports that the system in its current form was failing many people.

Having received more than 100,000 responses, the results of the survey reveal worrying shortcomings in the healthcare system and have exposed what is now commonly referred to as the gender health gap. Women have reported feeling stigmatised, not listened to and low priority when seeking healthcare and advice.

READ MORE: Action needed to stop women falling behind

The Government has vowed to “reset the dial” on women’s healthcare and eradicate inequalities in the system. The findings from the initial consultation will inform the first Government-led Women’s Health Strategy, Vision for Women’s Health, which is expected to be launched in spring 2022. Those findings reveal:

  • More than four in five respondents felt not listened to by healthcare professionals.
  • The majority were not able to conveniently access healthcare services they needed in terms of location (60%) or timing (76%).
  • COVID-19 has negatively impacted the health and access to healthcare services for the majority of respondents.
  • More than two out of five (65%) of women are not comfortable talking about their health issues in the workplace.
  • Four in five respondents with a health condition or disability reported not feeling support by services available for individuals with their condition and/or disability.

Historically, women have been underrepresented, and sometimes excluded from clinical trials and studies, meaning healthcare professionals are often not able to identify how symptoms may manifest specifically for women.

This means the understanding of health services and conditions can be biased towards men, having a knock-on effect to the access and treatment for women.

The news comes amidst reports that women’s breast and cervical screenings have fell by 2% in 2021 than the previous year – only around 70% of eligible women in the UK were screened. There’s also evidence to suggest that COVID vaccinations can and have affected the regularity of some women’s menstrual cycles.

Helen Burkinshaw
Helen Burkinshaw, policy and research co-ordinator at The Women’s Organisation


Policy and research co-ordinator at The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool, Helen Burkinshaw, said: “More can and needs to be done to ensure women’s voices are heard and tackle the long-entrenched inequalities they face.

“Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in an economic sense – bearing the brunt of additional care, facing higher risk of job losses and being hit by cuts to Universal Credit, for example. The pandemic has also brought concerns for the personal safety of women to the forefront, both in and out of their homes.

“Additionally, the gender pay gap increased by 1% in 2021 after a slow but steady narrowing of the gap in previous years. And now, not only has the gender health gap been confirmed, but widened due to the pandemic. Enough. We cannot and must not stand for being a lower priority in these essential areas of life.”

Recommendations suggested by respondents to the survey include ensuring women are represented in clinical trials and studies, initiating new research into health issues specific to women, and improving the treatment of women by professionals in the healthcare system.

Click here to read a full review of the findings

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.