Celebrating the menopause on International Menopause Day
To celebrate International Menopause Day, Sutton Women’s Centre hosted an event in partnership with Sutton Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and NHS Sutton, part of the South West London Integrated Care System, at Sutton’s Sound Lounge.
The fast-paced evening event brought together a range of other speakers to bust some menopause myths, answer questions and provide information to help support people to manage the menopause. Compere, well-known BBC regional TV and radio presenter and stand-up comedian, Sam Fraser, started the event off with some of her stand-up comedy and kept the fun going all evening.
Heather Smiles, Counselling and Outreach Lead, from Sutton Women’s Centre said: “We were delighted to celebrate International Menopause Day with such a well-attended, lively event. Sam kept the laughs coming with her hilarious comedy and our speakers, including Ms Claudine Domoney, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, and gave insightful, interesting talks. Topics included hormone replacement therapy, menopause in the workplace, pelvic floor health, nutrition in the menopause and how practicing yoga can help during this transition. We also welcomed local MP, Elliot Colborn and his colleague, Caroline Nokes, MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee.”
“We asked attendees to complete an evaluation form after the event and feedback so far shows that over 80% of attendees* said that they felt more informed about the menopause and the treatment available (whether medical or lifestyle interventions). Over 60% said that they felt that the evening made them feel more supported in their menopause journey and that healthcare professionals felt more accessible and approachable.”
“The strong links we have formed with Dr Bennett, Dr Jacob and the Sutton GPs, and the success of this partnership event has encouraged us to consider more events like this in future.Heather Smiles, Counselling and Outreach Lead
70 local residents attended the (fully booked) event which was one in a series of engagement sessions where Dr Bennett, Dr Jacob and other primary care colleagues from Sutton met with local people to understand their lived experience of the menopause and the services that they feel would be useful to help them manage their symptoms.
There are some 13.5 million menopausal people in the UK and the menopause is very topical at the moment. More and more well-known celebrities are speaking out about their experiences and the NHS recently appointed a new Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Tsar.
A recent article in The Guardian stated that since the first Davina McCall documentary on the menopause in 2021, 500,000 more women have received HRT prescriptions. But while prescription rates doubled in the richest areas of the UK, in the most deprived areas only half as many women take HRT. There is also a massive discrepancy in the treatment received by black, Asian and minority ethnic women.
Dr Bennett said: “While we respect the differences in perception and experiences between cultures, we also recognise that some people from these communities may be really struggling. The more we can open up the conversation in all our communities, hopefully the more able people will feel to come forward to ask for support, should they feel they need it.
“There are many ways the menopause can impact people. We know that people struggling during the menopause are more likely to reduce their hours or leave work, which can have a significant economic impact on themselves and their families. People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and we know HRT can help protect against this. Some people living with domestic abuse and experiencing menopausal symptoms have reported an escalation in their abuse.”
Tackling health inequalities key programme of work in Sutton – and a major part of the Sutton Health and Care Plan. Focussing on the menopause also aligns with the NHS Core 20 plus programme of work being undertaken across the South West London ICS, as we measure blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) as routine. It is also an opportunity to discuss lifestyle and long-term health at this crucial life stage.
Dr Anu Jacob, Local GP and Clinical Director for Sutton Primary Care Networks has been leading the development of a new GP-led health clinic for Sutton patients specialising in menopause care – the Sunflower Clinic. The weekly clinic is held on a Saturday on the Roundshaw Estate in Wallington. Since opening in July this year, doctors at the clinic have supported over 130 people with their menopause care.
Dr Jacob said: “We are really encouraged that feedback from people attending the Sunflower clinic has been positive. We have used feedback, both from patients attending the clinic and people we meet at the engagement events, to further develop the service. A team of dedicated GPs work at the clinic and have received comments including ‘Wow! So much understanding and expertise. I feel happy that I’m on the right path now’.
“We know that this is such a valuable service locally and are really delighted, as GPs, to be able to lead the way in improving menopause care in Sutton.Dr Anu Jacob
Local GP, Dr Naomi Bennett, said: “We are delighted to have the Sunflower Clinic up and running in Sutton. However, we know there is much more we can do to address unmet. Particularly for people living in deprived areas or those from ethnic minority communities.
We have embarked on our engagement programme to understand from our residents where the gaps in services are and how we can better support them during their menopause.Dr Naomi Bennett
Dr Bennet and Dr Jacob were able to share some of the ideas at the event and test them with the audience, these ideas include arranging further menopause awareness events, including in different languages, and for our health and care partners, training community menopause champions and education events for primary care. They will be developing their plans based on feedback from residents and patients.”
Dr Bennett, Dr Jacob and their GP colleagues in Sutton have been involved with the Women’s Centre for over a year – initially attending training run by the centre on how to support victims of domestic abuse. At a recent event for International Women’s Day earlier this year, the GPs talked about menopause and the session proved so popular it was the impetus for the event on International Menopause Day this year.
NHS Sutton facilitated the event by providing funding for the venue as part of the Core 20 programme.