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Women's Voices newsletter August 2019

  1. Foreword by Catherine Nestor, Co-Vice Chair, RCOG Women's Network
  2. New RCOG core and advanced O&G curriculum launched
  3. Women's Voices at RCOG World Congress 2019 – Meriem Kaderi
  4. Sharing experiences around menstrual wellbeing – Alison Wilcox
  5. Survey results: How is the Involvement Panel working for you?


Foreword by Catherine Nestor, Co-Vice Chair, RCOG Women's Network

Welcome to the August 2019 edition of the Women's Voices newsletter and, as always, a particular welcome to new members of the Involvement Panel.

Catherine Nestor

Being involved with the RCOG continues to be a fascinating experience. Opportunities are always arising to help make a difference to women's obstetric and gynaecological care. Getting positive feedback from clinicians that we meet and from members of the WVIP and other forums is always very encouraging. Some issues take a long time to change or resolve but the fact that lay people are part of the process of change and development is certainly a good thing.

Most recently I've played an active part in 2 important elements of RCOG's public and strategic work.

I was involved, from an early stage, in building the presence of "women's voices" into the RCOG World Congress 2019 which took place in June in London. For the first time at this flagship medical conference, women's lived experiences were given a significant profile throughout its three days. I would like to say a huge thank you to the Patient and Public Involvement team at RCOG for all the work they did to turn our ideas into reality. At the beginning of each session, before the medical and scientific presentations began, a live or recorded woman's voice was heard, talking about the impact of her particular health issue. Those that I heard, made for powerful and meaningful introductions to the themed presentations. You can read more about some of those voices in this newsletter.

Another Congress first was an early morning session organised and run by the Women's Network on the subject of good communication with patients. At 7am on day 2 we waited nervously, hoping that someone would come along to our workshop. We need not have worried as there was a very good turnout. We had some great participation from clinicians from around the globe who certainly do aim to put the woman's feelings and circumstances at the forefront of joint decisions about care. It was good to hear about the approaches in different cultural settings.

You may already be aware that the RCOG has partnered with the Department of Health and Social Care to run a Women's Health Taskforce. In May, together with RCOG President Lesley Regan, I chaired a meeting on menstrual health to feed into this stream of the taskforce's deliberations. With a room full of representatives from organisations concerned with conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, fibroids, PMDD, as well as healthcare professionals, it was a brilliant way to bring together key concerns about period poverty, the impact of menstrual conditions on mental health, clinicians' knowledge and training, access to information, care pathways and holistic approaches. A paper from the meeting has been submitted to the taskforce.

It has been good to slow down over the summer but as ever I'm looking forward to the next Women's Network in September and to seeing the issues that keep the WVIP Facebook Group alive with activity. 

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New RCOG core and advanced O&G curriculum launched

After 3 years in the making, the new curriculum has finally been approved by the General Medical Council and launched. From this point forward, O&G trainees' learning and development will be based on this new framework.

The development of the new curriculum provided the opportunity to, for the first time, involve the public in this process, as well as a range of organisations and initiatives that support and promote women's health.

Many of the themes that emerged through the engagement process were around the importance of non-technical skills, including:

  • communication;
  • developing equal, trusting partnerships with patients; and,
  • the ability to provide tailored care and support;

so that women feel well-informed and in control of their decision-making.

The College is really pleased that the new curriculum has a much stronger focus on these non-technical skills, patient safety and the patient experience.

Maria Clark, Women's Network representative on the Core Curriculum Committee, and Alastair Campbell, Consultant O&G and Chair of the Committee, said:

"A huge thank you to all Women's Voices and members of the public who have been involved in developing the curriculum over the last 2 years; for giving up your time and bringing your lived experience and expertise to the table. It has been a long process to get to this stage, but it has been well worth the effort and we feel that this new framework will ensure the highest quality care and ultimately improve the health of people using O&G services."

Find out more about the new curriculum by taking a look at the eLearning training resource designed to help trainees and their educational supervisors understand the new framework.

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Women's Voices at RCOG World Congress 2019 – Meriem Kaderi

Women's Voices member Meriem Kaderi was one of over 25 women who brought their lived experience to Congress in June. She shared her personal story of living with vaginismus with delegates attending presentations on "Sex and biopsychosocial aspects of reproduction". Here she explains why she wanted to get involved.

Meriem Kaderi at RCOG Congress 2019

"I took part in the RCOG World Congress 2019 because I wanted to be able to make a difference, help those women who cannot speak up about their women’s issues because they are too embarrassed or simply because they feel that even their doctors would not understand.

"Raising awareness about vaginismus has always been very important to me. Because it is a very rare condition, many professionals don’t know much about it and many women suffer in silence. Therefore talking about it publicly was very important for me to try and help those people who may be suffering in silence. Personally, I have suffered from this condition for more than 5 years, probably my whole life, and I only spoke to my doctor after almost 2 years of suffering in silence and I have never told any family or friends, thus, talking about it publicly was very important for me, it was empowering and helped me feel a little bit better.

"I really hope that my contribution has helped doctors to understand a little bit more about the condition, how it affects women, how common it actually is, and also help non-medical professionals to learn a little bit about vaginismus.

"Also, speaking at the Congress was particularly heart touching for me because I met a young woman who suffers from the condition and she was very touched by my ability to speak publicly about vaginismus." 

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Sharing experiences around menstrual wellbeing – Alison Wilcox

Alison Wilcox from the charity Verity came along to the College's recent workshop on menstrual wellbeing – designed to inform the Women's Health Taskforce. These workshops are focused around a range of topics and aim to give insight and bring women's experience to the Taskforce's understanding of key issues in women's health.

Alison Wilcox and Lesley Regan at Women's Health Taskforce"I was delighted to be invited to represent the charity at the workshop. Being there to represent women with PCOS at such a forum was a huge privilege. It was a great opportunity to raise the profile of PCOS to both RCOG and other organisations as it affect 1:5 women.

"Verity is a national charity that receives no formal funding and operates on donations. The trustees are volunteers and complete their charity roles in their spare time.

"To be able to be part of and inform the debate on such an important subject that affects women was welcomed. Especially as at Verity we know abnormal uterine bleeding with PCOS significantly impacts life, work and wellbeing.

"I have experienced abnormal uterine bleeding for many years. It does impact on every aspect of your life, health & wellbeing. I suffered chronic anaemia and pain which impacts your energy levels. I was fortunate as I could afford the sanitary products: usually 2 packs of night time towels daily to keep me comfortable and confident to go to work. However, often I soiled bedding and clothing despite "padding up". My husband was of huge support and fortunately took this all in his stride. To resolve my abnormal uterine bleeding I tried 2 Mirena coils in succession but these were not effective. I then had a thermal ablation which has thankfully ceased all bleeding.

"It is reassuring that such forums exist to advise the Women's Health Taskforce group so that all women receive the treatment and support needed to improve health and wellbeing outcomes."

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Survey results: How is the Involvement Panel working for you?

We recently asked all members of the panel how being involved with the College's work was working for you. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback.

  • 83% of members surveyed feel that the opportunities to share views, knowledge and experience of women's health services to inform the College's work, have an impact on improving women's health.
  • 85% of members said that being part of the panel is a positive experience for them.
  • 80% of members who use the panel's closed Facebook group find it a useful way to engage with the College, and/or with other members of the panel.

It has been really helpful to hear what is working well, but also how we can work to improve; to ensure involvement is as inclusive as it can be and that the panel continues to be a useful way to facilitate involvement.

Over half of the panel's 600 members engage through the closed Facebook group, so feedback on this was also useful to ensure it remains a productive space for all with a variety of interests represented.

Some themes emerged from feedback which included:

  • The use of communicating messages and sharing information through video content via the new YouTube channel is very well recieved and members want this to grow.
  • The use of virtual methods for Women's Voices to be involved (particularly out of hours) are welcomed, through online webinars and focus groups.
  • Members want the opportunity to engage and share their experiences with O&G consultants and trainees to influence their learning around the importance of woman-centred care.
  • The Facebook group remains a thriving page which members enjoy being part of but effort should be made to ensure wide ranging topics across obstetrics and gynaecology are promoted and not dominated by specific interests.

The College’s Patient & Public Involvement (PPI) team will be working with the Women's Network to incorporate these themes into the PPI plans for the year ahead. We aim for public involvement at the College to be responsive to the needs of those who kindly get involved.

You can read selected feedback from the membership survey (PDF 533kb).

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