What’s happening in Wales?

What’s happening in Wales when it comes to women’s health and endometriosis?

In recent years, the Welsh Government has started to focus on gender equality and associated health and wellbeing issues. The Endometriosis Cymru website is a good example of work the Welsh Government has recommended take place on endometriosis, but it isn’t the only activity related to women’s health happening in Wales.

Access to essential period products

Period products are expensive, which creates a very real health inequality that the Welsh Government has been keen to address. This is set out in ‘A Period Proud Wales’, the Welsh Government’s plan to end period poverty and achieve period dignity in Wales.

The Welsh Government’s ambition is to ensure that everyone who menstruates has access to essential products when they need them, including pads, tampons, menstrual cups and pants. Every local authority in Wales is awarded a Period Dignity Grant to provide schools, further education, and hospital inpatients with supplies of free period products. There is a commitment to also expand this to people in the community including foodbanks, libraries, leisure and family centres, cultural and sports venues, and community hubs.

Education and resources

The Period Proud Action Plan also commits to providing education and resources to improve understanding of menstrual health and wellbeing and eradicate the stigma and shame so often associated with periods. This is known to be one of the reasons for delayed help-seeking and diagnosis of conditions like endometriosis.  

The Plan includes a national campaign to make Wales a period proud nation. You can watch some of the short films which feature members of the public talking about periods and the need for Wales to be ‘period proud’ here.

Bloody Brilliant

The Bloody Brilliant website was originally conceived, funded, and developed by the Welsh Government’s Women’s Health Implementation Group (WHIG). It is particularly aimed at young people, with the aim being to enable conversations and break taboos about periods and menstrual health.  

The content of the website has been created based on engagement with hundreds of young people in Wales across a range of demographics reviewing all the content drafts.  

Increasingly, schools in Wales are using the Bloody Brilliant website to help deliver education sessions on Menstrual Health and Wellbeing.  

Menstrual Health and Wellbeing on the Secondary School Curriculum in Wales

From 2022, menstrual education has been included in the Curriculum for Wales. The topic sits within Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and is part of statutory guidance for all local authority-maintained schools in Wales.

Menstrual health and wellbeing features in the guidance issued to schools and local authorities under ‘Sexual Health and Well-being’ as learning that focuses on menstrual well-being and conditions which can affect the reproductive system. The Welsh Government is developing resources for use in schools to help teaching staff deliver this learning.

Read more about RSE and the guidance about menstrual health and wellbeing here.

A Women and Girls’ Health Plan for Wales

After listening to many conversations with patients, charities, and researchers, in July 2022, the Welsh Government published a Quality Statement on Women’s and Girls’ Health. The Quality Statement sets out what the NHS in Wales is expected to deliver to ensure good quality health services to support women and girls through the course of their lives.  

A 10-year NHS Wales Women and Girls’ Health Plan is being developed to ensure Health Boards can meet these expectations. Together, these should help reduce health inequalities, improve equity of service, improve health outcomes for women in Wales, and ensure that NHS services reflect women’s needs across their life course.  

The Quality Statement makes clear that gynaecological conditions like endometriosis require significant attention, and that health boards should ensure they are able to diagnose and offer treatment for it as quickly as possible.

The Welsh Government understands that not all health inequalities faced by women, girls, and people assigned female at birth can be resolved by the NHS, so there is also a Women’s Health Policy Team, whose role it is to make sure that other departments in the Government also consider their plans and activities through a gender lens. This means that they will be asked to think about how their policies impact on women’s health and wellbeing.

NHS Wales’s 2022 Discovery Report presents the results of a survey the Government undertook across Wales to hear the voices of women and girls about women’s health. Over 3,800 people responded to the survey, and their voices will help to create the NHS Women’s and Girls’ Health Plan for Wales. The report covers many areas, including menstrual health and endometriosis, and puts forward actions to address the challenges in women’s and girls’ health and reduce gender health inequalities.

These include.

  • improved interactions during healthcare consultations with women and girls  
  • education and training of healthcare practitioners, and employers  
  • more awareness among the public of health conditions that affect women and girls  
  • high quality research into women’s health.

What next in Wales?

In line with the Welsh Government’s Quality Statement for Women and Girls, and on the back of evidence such as the Discovery Report and that of the third sector Women’s Health Wales Coalition, the NHS Wales Executive is setting up a National Clinical Strategic Network for Women’s Health. It will be this group’s responsibility to lead the development of a 10-year NHS Women and Girls’ Health Plan.  

The Plan’s implementation will be monitored by the NHS Executive, who in turn report to the Minister and Welsh Government. Progress will be scrutinised by the Senedd’s Health and Social Care Committee who have made Women’s Health one of their priorities.  

The Women’s Health Wales Coalition is an independent group of health and equality charities, Royal Colleges, patient groups and advocates, and researchers who have come together to collate evidence and make recommendations to improve women’s health across the life-course in Wales.