Welcome to Obs and Gynae

The camera follows a man on a hospital trolley. He gurns at the audience and is wheeled away with his hand up to some unfortunate woman who is screaming.  “Welcome to the NHS” he opines to the audience. We all laugh. It’s the opening of the series “This is going to hurt”. About an obs and gynae ward. We all laugh. Women. Women down there. Women and their unmentionable bits. All intrinsically funny. Apparently.

Not so funny is that during the pandemic the waiting list for gynaecological procedures grew by 60%. During the pandemic many more women who suffer extreme bleeding during their periods or bleed all the time had to go in for emergency blood transfusions because major surgeries like hysterectomies were suspended.

This is not women waiting for something cosmetic or with a few aches and pains. This is about women who cannot work, cannot care for their children or in some cases for themselves they are in so much pain or bleeding so heavily.

The average diagnosis time in the UK for the excruciating condition of endometriosis is an appalling 8 years.

My local trust, for instance, knocks you off the gynae waiting list and sends you back to your GP after a year even if your symptoms are worsening! You then have to have more unnecessary intimate examinations to prove you should have been on the waiting list in the first place.

Of course there are pressures on every single part of the NHS.  However, a recent report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is adamant that gynae waiting lists are growing faster than other waiting lists and that gynae conditions are often labelled as “benign”. Babies don’t wait to be born so quite obviously the obstetric ward is ever open; gynae is often the first to close its doors when pressures become too much.

These pressures also result in more procedures being done in an outpatient setting without anaesthetic, apparently informed by some very odd ideas about women’s “high” pain thresholds. An astonishing number of procedures are offered “in clinic” without even local anaesthetic. The NHS for example routinely offers cervical polypectomy, hysteroscopy, coil fitting  and other procedures  without even local anaesthetic. I am barely exaggerating when I say a dentist would be drummed out of the profession for doing, without pain relief, to the gums what is routinely done by a doctor to the womb or cervix!

The most exquisite thing about Liberalism is that it is not about social class, economics or an end point. It is about  human dignity. Ongoing human dignity for all. Now. There is no dignity in living with the terror of a procedure done without anaesthetic, or in living with chronic unnecessary pain or tailoring your whole  life around the proximity of a toilet or a sanitary bin.

Obstetricians and gynaecologists say gynae conditions are not given the equal status they deserve. Let’s listen to them and consider the half a million women who are marking time waiting to function again as equal citizens with human dignity.

* Ruth Bright has been a councillor in Southwark and Parliamentary Candidate for Hampshire East

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jun '22 - 2:08pm

    The NHS is a terrible organisation for a large part of its users.

    We ought not buy into the Labour view of it as a great thing.

    It needs massive injections of money to catch up, but as well, needs massive change. Attitudes, yes even from medical staff are archaic. We aplauded them correctly in the worst of Covid. Now we need criticie them as well as managers. Sorry but these practices are not caused only by Brexit lack of staff, or pandemic allocation of them. These horrors are the result of a top down wait and obey stifling approach. It isn’t customer driven at all. I know few who rate it in many parts of the Uk.

    Aspects can be built on. Much ought to be different. The rich have an out, most or many do not. If I had a few quid I would have insurance, but alas that is not good either, as unless we get an Obama who can allow pre existing conditions, to be insured, many shall not b e.

    We need a radical policy of integration with and lessons aquired from the not for profit private sector.

  • Ruth Bright 29th Jun '22 - 3:25pm

    I forgot to mention Dame Diane James’ podcast You Me and the Big C (28/10/19 on BBC Sounds). A podcast on gynae cancers does not exactly sound like fun but it is full of useful information and the gleeful breaking of taboos.

  • Ruth Bright 29th Jun '22 - 6:56pm

    Struggling to disagree with much of that Lorenzo.

  • Ruth Bright 2nd Jul '22 - 12:22pm

    Apologies, the reference was to Dame Deborah James who died this week.

  • Zoe Hollowood 5th Jul '22 - 4:02pm

    Thank you Ruth for this interesting and honest article about Obs and Gynae. I spoke to a consultant friend of mine who works in Obs and Gynae recently, and she was really depressed after the recent portrayal of OBGYN by Adam Kay in ‘This is going to hurt’ (BBC). She felt like this comedy showed a lack of respect for women who often feel very vulnerable, dismissed and embarrassed about seeing doctors anyway when it comes to OBGYN issues. The portrayal that doctors are essentially laughing at you is not going to encourage women to come forward either. She told me it was a far cry from the service and respect she provided on the hospital ward when caring for her patients.

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