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Gynaecology waiting lists leave thousands of women waiting too long for care

12 Apr 2024

Today, new data from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) reveal that nearly nine in ten (89%) healthcare professionals think gynaecology waiting times are impacting patients’ quality of life. 

In the survey* by the RCOG, healthcare professionals were asked about the impact of longer waiting times to access non-cancer gynaecology services, and:

  • 88% said patients reported worsening symptoms
  • 74% said the complexity of patients’ care and treatment needs increased
  • 70% saw an increase in patients requiring emergency gynaecological care.

Around 591,000 women and people in England are currently on a waiting list for gynaecology hospital care, with around 31,000 waiting over a year. While waiting, women are left struggling with symptoms such as extreme pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and incontinence. Long waits can result in more complex treatment needs or emergency admission to hospital.

Since publishing the Left for too Long report in 2022, the RCOG has consistently called for action from Government and the NHS to reduce current long waits for hospital gynaecology services. 

Two years on, these latest data show 79% of respondents do not feel non-cancer gynaecology services are allocated adequate capacity compared with other elective services. Of these, 91% think perceptions about gynaecological conditions have an impact on decisions made on allocating theatre and clinic space. Gynaecological conditions on the elective pathway are often perceived as less urgent than their counterparts in other surgical specialties.

This year, the RCOG is undertaking work to explore the challenges facing UK elective gynaecology services and identify effective policies and initiatives to address waiting lists. As part of this, the College has launched a survey to hear from women and people who have recent experience of waiting for hospital gynaecology care. The findings will be published in late Summer 2024. 

Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said, “These findings reflect the experience of myself and many of my colleagues working in gynaecology; that services remain under pressure and women are waiting too long for care and treatment. It is time for health services to meet the needs of women across the country, by delivering timely, compassionate and holistic care.”
“Whilst the introduction of the Government’s Women’s Health Strategy and the creation of women’s health hubs is a positive step, progress still feels frustratingly slow for gynaecologists working on the frontline and women waiting for treatment. Therefore, to support delivering solutions faster, the College is undertaking new work to identify effective policies and initiatives to address gynaecology waiting lists.”
Jane Plumb, The RCOG’s Women’s Voices Lead, said, “Each patient on a gynaecological waiting list represents someone living with a condition that is likely to be having a huge impact on their life. Common conditions like prolapse, endometriosis and fibroids are often mislabelled as ‘benign’ but can affect your physical and mental well-being, ability to work or even wanting to leave your house. 
“A vital part of the College’s work this year will be listening to women and people waiting for gynaecology care in hospital to help design solutions for the future. This important project will improve policy and practice and, most importantly, the experiences of thousands waiting for care.”

Have you been referred by your GP to hospital gynaecology services for symptoms like heavy or painful periods, incontinence or prolapse, or for treatment for fibroids, endometriosis or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? Share your experience with the RCOG here.

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