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NHS England signs Menopause Workplace Pledge

We are delighted that NHS England has signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge in a move that demonstrates a commitment to ensuring employees experiencing the menopause feel well informed and supported while at work.

The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 but can also occur in younger women. It happens when the ovaries run out of eggs and the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone fall. The perimenopause is the time before the menopause when hormone levels start to decline and symptoms start.

Perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms can last many years and even decades for some women. These symptoms can include hot flushes, anxiety, insomnia, problems with concentration and memory, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pains, urinary symptoms and low mood.

For many women these are debilitating symptoms that adversely affect their daily life, work, relationships and also their future health as menopausal women have a greater risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, clinical depression and dementia.

While the menopause isn’t often talked about at work, it’s where people can find their symptoms most difficult to manage. And with women making up around 75% of NHS staff, it is crucial that action is taken to support employees and encourage open and respectful conversations about the menopause.

For far too long, the perimenopause and menopause have been shrouded in taboo, and as a consequence many women are left struggling with debilitating symptoms on their own.

Research has shown that 10% of women leave their jobs and many more are reducing their hours or passing up promotions because of their menopausal symptoms.

It is very important that the NHS takes action now in order to retain their extraordinary and committed staff. Making workplaces supportive when it comes to the perimenopause and menopause can help employees’ wellbeing and also ensure an inclusive workforce.

Employees of all ages and genders need to be well informed about the perimenopause and menopause and how it could affect their colleagues, and able to signpost to both internal and external support and resources.

The same applies for family and friends outside of the workplace, as the perimenopause and menopause can often have a significant impact on relationships and home life.

Last year, NHS England published an internal menopause policy which includes specific guidance on how line managers can support their staff experiencing the menopause, whether that’s allowing flexible or home-based working or making changes to the work environment, such as making the temperature cooler or ensuring easy access to cold water and bathroom facilities. Just as important is the need to normalise conversations about menopause support in the workplace.

Signing the Menopause Workplace Pledge is the next step in NHS England becoming a more supportive organisation. Led by the charity Wellbeing of Women, the campaign is drumming up support from all employers across all sectors up and down the country, and we are thrilled to be a part of transforming the conversation around menopause.

It is important to ensure that current and future generations of women feel comfortable, confident and supported as they approach and experience the menopause. They also all need access to the right advice and treatment from healthcare professionals.

Janet Lindsay is CEO of Wellbeing of Women, the leading charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of women, girls and babies through research, education, and advocacy.

Ruth May

Ruth is the national COVID-19 response lead for the nursing, midwifery and care professions in England. She took up the post of Chief Nursing Officer for England in January 2019, and before this enjoyed national appointments with NHS Improvement and Monitor as well as regional and Trust leadership roles. As Regional Chief Nurse for the Midlands and East, she championed the ‘Stop the Pressure’ campaign; nearly halving the number of pressure ulcers in the region, improving care for patients, and delivering cost savings to the NHS.

Ruth is passionate about nurturing the next generation of NHS nursing and midwifery leaders, encouraging professional development opportunities and putting in place the optimal cultural conditions for all NHS employees to thrive. This includes advocating for improved mental health awareness, championing volunteer activity to support the frontline workforce and she is a vocal supporter of the WRES agenda and increased diversity across the NHS.

Proud mum to her young daughter, Ruth strives to balance her professional and home life, and encourages others to do the same.

Find Ruth on Twitter @CNOEngland / #teamCNO.