Women's Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:53 am on 10th June 1988.

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Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake 11:53 am, 10th June 1988

I welcome the decision of the Government to allocate to one Minister special responsibilities for women's health. It is quite clear from the debate and from what we know from experience that the topic certainly needs to be spotlighted because it tends to be underestimated and overlooked.

The debate has ranged so widely over the possibilities that might come before the Minister that there is a danger of diluting her activities and those of her Department. It would be wiser if some of the matters discussed could be allocated to the Departments in which they more properly lie and if we could have somebody in each Department to look at matters from the woman's point of view. That might be a more practical way of following up some of the points that have been made.

I should like to turn to those elements that are clearly the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Security. I warmly welcome the emphasis that is now being placed on preventive medicine. It is not before time, because it has certainly been one of the most neglected aspects of medicine. I was always brought up to believe that prevention was better than cure, and I am glad to see a conversion to this approach and that we are dealing on a far better and more systematic basis than ever before with the various forms of cancer that afflict women.

Men should not be left out of the concept of preventive medicine. It would be wise if we considered the concept of both sexes, although I recognise that there are special women's illnesses that require very special attention.

I hope that women will come forward and co-operate in schemes that are now under way for testing for cervical and breast cancer. May I offer one small word of caution? Several months ago I conducted a mini campaign in my health district to encourage women to come forward for the cervical smear test. I was horrified to discover that although the authorities were ready to welcome them, there was a distinct reluctance on the part of many women to come forward and have the test. There almost seemed to be a suggestion that there was something shameful about doing so or that women were too embarassed to go through the very easy process.