I congratulate my right hon. Friend Alec Shelbrooke on the sensitive way in which he introduced the debate. He posed three questions at the end of his speech. The answer to all three is: “Because it affects women.”
I have never been one to claim that we are disadvantaged as women, but I have seen over time that so much discrimination still happens. Never was that clearer than when I served as a Health Minister. Over and over again, I was approached by female colleagues from across the House—we are all very good at fighting for ourselves—who told me about how they had felt diminished at the hands of the NHS when sharing their experiences of quite common conditions.
At the heart of this debate is the fact that 51% of us have periods, so there should be far better understanding of menstrual health and what constitutes a healthy period. I pay tribute to Paula Sherriff for her work in this area. She highlighted to me the under-diagnosis of endometriosis, despite the fact that, as we have heard, it can be a debilitating condition for some women and it is very common.
I had the pleasure of addressing the hon. Lady’s women’s health conference, where I met representatives from Endometriosis UK. They had three jars, which contained physical representations of how many sanitary products someone would use if they had a healthy period, if they had heavy periods or if they had dysmenorrhea, which affects people with endometriosis. That was a revelation. If only young women were shown that when they started their periods, they could manage their menstrual health so much more effectively. I met a woman from Endometriosis UK who was in her early 20s. She had struggled with endometriosis and very heavy periods throughout her teens, to the extent that she had had to have time off school. Seeing that representation had been a revelation for her; she had been able to get the treatment she needed and carry on with life.
That brings me to my final point, which I pitch to the Minister for him to consider when he responds to the debate. We all expect our employers to have good policies on staff wellbeing—we encourage that with respect to mental health and physical health—but we really should encourage them to do much more about really common conditions that can be managed effectively with support. I thank everybody for attending the debate—especially the men.