Meeting Matt Hancock – a chance for young women to be heard

By Hannah • 29 April 2021

This week Hannah tells us about her experience of giving evidence to Matt Hancock and Mims Davies, as part of the government’s call for evidence for the new Women’s Health Strategy.

On March 26, me and 6 other young women had the unique chance to speak face-to-face (or, screen-to-screen) with Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock and Minister for Employment Mims Davies.

As part of a call for evidence to inform the new Women’s Health Strategy, Young Women’s Trust offered the platform for us to share our experiences of the health care system and how it has failed us and our needs.

Failure to listen to young women

The 7 of us had different experiences spanning both mental and physical illnesses, despite this our experience of the healthcare system  was the same.  As we spoke I found we were all echoing the same points as the woman before, we all stated that we were not listened to.

This was certainly the case for me. I went to the doctors several times over the years with persevering symptoms of serious mental illness.  During this time I was only offered referrals, self-help leaflets and simple night-time routines for when my disordered sleeping was severely impacting my functionality. It took several years of complaints before I was even offered a blood test. The results highlighted a deficiency that had to be medicated and was known to cause ill mental health.

The other glaring commonality in all our stories is that the doctors who treated us were not knowledgeable enough in women’s health, particularly in cases of physiological issues. While physical issues, especially issues with the reproductive organs, were completely overlooked, disregarded or dismissed by many medical professionals.

One of the main outcomes of the meeting made clear that continuous research and specific training is needed for doctors to successfully treat women. All of us were frustrated by how long it had taken to be heard and adequately treated. The physical and mental trauma that so many women experience as a result of their healthcare experiences means a strategy that centres women’s health is long overdue.

A glimmer of hope

To be reminded that my experience was not unique, nor a scratch on the surface of the medical negligence that some others face was infuriating. I felt angry for women who have been failed, and angry that we had not been heard sooner. Despite this I felt a glimmer of hope that things could change.

I am grateful to Young Women’s Trust and the Ministers for the opportunity to be heard. To be afforded the chance to be a part of a movement that looks to progress equality and feel that through our suffering we can help forge the change that is so urgently needed was cathartic.

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