This Government take very seriously the challenges women face in getting a diagnosis of endometriosis and in living with the symptoms. That is why it will be a priority area in the women’s health strategy.
My constituent Claire Ciano suffers from endometriosis. It has had a hugely detrimental effect on her career, thanks to the difficulty in getting diagnosed and the lack of treatment available. I commend the Minister on putting forward the women’s health strategy, but will she set out in further detail the steps she will take to raise awareness and improve treatment for sufferers of endometriosis?
The case of my hon. Friend’s constituent is unfortunately only too common. We know the average wait time for a diagnosis is around eight years. Unfortunately, while the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s published guidelines suggest how women should be diagnosed and the treatment they should receive, they are not mandatory. However, in the women’s health strategy we will strongly urge that they be followed.
I welcome the Minister’s comments. One of the biggest issues for women suffering from endometriosis is the lack of access to fertility treatment. She will know that I have been campaigning heavily for better access to, and regulation of, in vitro fertilisation treatment. Can she confirm that that will be a key priority in the women’s health strategy, and when can we expect an update to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, which is woefully out of date?
The hon. Lady has campaigned very hard on IVF. I can say that IVF will be in the women’s health strategy; IVF services are commissioned at a local level, but there is disparity in how they are commissioned in local areas, and we want to see consistency of service offered to women and partners.
I call the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes.
Endometriosis South Coast does brilliant work supporting women suffering from endometriosis, but it is seeking reassurance from the Minister that, when the women’s health ambassador is appointed, she will be a real champion for those affected by this condition and other women-only conditions that are so impactful on their to continue work. Can the Minister update the House on when the women’s health ambassador will be announced, given that we have been expecting the post since December?
I can reassure my right hon. Friend that the women’s health ambassador will be key in driving change, not just by raising awareness and confidence among women in coming forward for help, but by improving the services women receive, and she will have to wait only days, rather than weeks, before we release the name.