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Blog from RCOG President: College invites health professionals managing growing elective gynaecology waiting lists to share experiences

11 Jun 2024

I invite peers working in elective gynaecology and urgynaecology services to complete our short survey to inform our work on this important issue.

Around 600,000 women and people in England are currently on a waiting list for non-cancer gynaecology hospital care, with around 31,000 waiting over a year. 

The impact of the waiting list on women waiting for care cannot be underestimated. In my clinic, I am seeing more women and people across the country left needlessly struggling with extreme pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and incontinence for conditions like endometriosis and fibroids as they wait to see a Gynaecologist. This can impact every aspect of their personal, social and economic lives.

A recent survey conducted by the College found that 91% of healthcare professionals that cared for patients on gynaecology waiting lists felt the perception of gynaecological conditions as ‘benign’ has a direct impact on how these services are prioritised in an already stretched health service.

Importantly, 88% of healthcare professionals were seeing patient’s symptoms worsening whilst waiting for care and nearly three quarters (74%) were seeing an increase in the complexity of care and treatment needs of patients on waiting lists. While women are suffering and waiting, they are at risk of their conditions worsening and becoming more serious. This cannot continue.

Waiting lists are also having a wider impact on those of us that work in gynaecology. Any progress towards decreasing the numbers of women waiting feels frustratingly slow and as though we are continually letting our patients down.

A staggering 89% of healthcare professionals surveyed felt that being on a waiting list was having a direct impact on their patients’ quality of life. As a professional, this is heavily contributing to feelings of frustration and burnout as we know the system struggles to keep up with demand. We are risking more Gynaecologists leaving the NHS and exacerbating the problem for the 600,000 women and people who are in need of our care.

As President of the RCOG, I recognise that the College has an important role in advocating for our members working in Gynaecology. Since 2022, the RCOG has continually called for change since the publication of our Left for too Long report.

We are currently undertaking new work to identify effective policies and initiatives to address gynaecology waiting lists. The first part of this involves listening to the experiences of women on waiting lists and those of us that care for them.

As part of this, we have been surveying healthcare professionals and operational leads working in elective gynaecology services across the UK.

We want to hear from a range of clinical professionals including RCOG Fellows, Members, Trainees and Associates, as well as nurses, allied health professionals and other clinical support staff. We also want to hear from operational and administrative staff who support the delivery of gynaecology services. Your input will provide invaluable evidence to help us to build a case to put in front of decision makers about why we must tackle this issue.

The early results of the survey are emphasising the stress, worry and frustration that our Members, Fellows and the wider gynaecology teams feel and that waiting lists are having an enormous impact on their ability to deliver care.

 “Patient frustration and management of staff wellbeing in the face of these pressure impacts on my mental health”
“I required time off with work related stress due to an inability to care for the women adequately and increasing demand from managers to do more in less time.”
“It is distressing to hear of patients long suffering with their symptoms and desperate to have a date for their procedure.”

I invite my peers working in elective gynaecology and urgynaecology services to consider completing our short survey and sharing your experience.  

In the meantime, I am committed to ensuring that the College continues to call for urgent action to improve access to UK elective gynaecology care and for the next Government to set up a joint taskforce to address the disproportionate growth in waiting lists in gynaecology.

We must address waiting lists in gynaecology to protect women who are waiting from experiencing worsening symptoms, more complex conditions and potentially detrimental mental health impacts.

Equally, we must protect our members and wider healthcare professionals, who are working hard to provide the best possible care in challenging conditions. It is essential that our voices are heard and the next Government acts.

  • Please complete the survey here.
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