I thank Alec Shelbrooke for securing the debate. I have campaigned on endometriosis ever since a constituent came to me and explained the long wait she had had, the difficulties she had faced, and the pain she had been suffering. I will take one moment to congratulate her because she has just had a baby, having previously been told that she was possibly infertile, so huge congratulations to her and her family.
I am delighted that endometriosis is now in the education curriculum and part of sex and relationships education. I met the Minister for School Standards and he agreed to include it, so that is great news. In the short time I have available I want to focus on my list of asks for the Minister. One ask is about people with endometriosis having the statutory support that they need and not facing discrimination. Such support includes personal independence payment and other disability allowances. Guidance on endometriosis and its impact on work should be clear so that those assessing an individual’s application understand the debilitating impact that endometriosis can have on a person’s life. I am slightly concerned that when people who have a severe form of endometriosis go for a PIP assessment, they are not taken seriously and the severity of what they suffer is not taken into account.
We must ensure that those with the disease have access to statutory sick pay as well. The current definition and criteria for statutory sick pay fails to recognise long-term conditions such as endometriosis, and statutory sick pay is available only to an employee for a linked period of sickness to a maximum of three years, which penalises people who have chronic long-term conditions such as endometriosis where the symptoms can be felt for life. Those with endometriosis need to be supported through both guidance to employers and statutory sick pay. It must be recognised that chronic conditions may result in intermittent rather than continual symptoms. Again, the guidance does not seem to match the particular circumstances of endometriosis.
I also want to ask the Minister to work with Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that those with endometriosis have access to the right support at the right time, in order to limit the amount of time they need off. I do not feel that the NHS has woken up to the scale of endometriosis, and services do not appear to be planned to support all those who need it. It needs to be taken seriously by commissioning services.
My final ask is that the Department of Health and Social Care looks at supporting the research that has been done at the University of Hull, which has looked at developing biomarkers for endometriosis to reduce the amount of time that it takes to diagnose. They need only £10,000 in seed funding, which would make a huge difference.
I have much more to say, but in the time remaining I will simply echo what many other Members have said: it is time to take women’s health seriously. Will the Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care work together to deliver a difference for the many women who suffer?