We will appoint a women’s health champion or ambassador this summer, which will be an important step in the delivery of our “Women’s Health Plan—A plan for 2021-2024”, which was, of course, the first women’s health plan to be published by a Government in the United Kingdom. I understand that the UK Government is still developing its women’s health strategy for England, and the Welsh Government has committed to drafting a women’s health plan, but that has not yet been done.
Through the Scottish plan, we have prioritised improving services and information for women, including initiating new research on endometriosis, launching a new women’s health platform on NHS Inform and increasing the choices that women have to access contraception at community pharmacies.
Women across Scotland face the significant challenges of health inequalities on a daily basis. For many women, those inequalities can define their lives—in some cases, simply because they are women, and in others, because they are women who live in areas where there are higher levels of deprivation. It is clear that women need many of the short-term and medium-term actions in “Women’s Health Plan”.
I thank the First Minister for confirming that the appointment will be made. If the First Minister truly recognises the urgency of the matter, will she give women across Scotland the answer that they not only want but need, and ensure that the appointment will be meaningful and will take forward the important short-term actions in “Women’s Health Plan” that have not been forthcoming so far?
Yes—the appointment will be meaningful. I am not entirely sure what was intended by that question: of course it will be meaningful. Whoever is appointed to the role will have the required expertise.
It is important that we take forward all the action points and recommendations in “Women’s Health Plan”. As I said, we were the first Government in the UK to produce a plan for women’s health. Since the launch of the plan, progress has been made on a range of actions. The development of the women’s health platform on NHS Inform is an important source of information, and the research call, which is jointly funded with Wellbeing of Women, on endometriosis is also important.
We have established a menopause specialist network, which meets regularly to provide peer support and support for primary care teams, which is really important. We have made progress on access to contraception in pharmacies and on action on menstrual health. Menopause is now included in the Scottish curriculum.
A range of things have already happened, but it is important that we drive forward all the recommendations in “Women’s Health Plan”, which is why the appointment of a women’s health champion is such a key part of the plan. As I said in my original answer, that appointment will be made this summer.