Women’s Health Outcomes DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Lord BoatengMain Page: Lord Boateng (Labour - Life peer)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, for securing this debate—a timely update a year on from the brilliant report of the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley of Nettlestone, just said.
Today’s debate led me to look back over our debates on the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, during which the Government conceded, after Scotland led the way, on a patient safety commissioner for England. We were promised then that serious consideration was being given to the report’s other recommendations to support victims of disastrous medical procedures and to prevent future avoidable damage. I follow the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in pointing out that the victims of sodium valproate, pelvic mesh implants and Primodos are still waiting. The First Do No Harm report concluded that thousands of lives were ruined because officials failed to listen to female patients. I hope we might hear some good news on that issue from the Minister.
In three minutes, there are many issues I could cover, but I want to extend the conclusions of the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, to broader issues. I note that women wait longer to be diagnosed for many conditions, including cancer, and that heart disease in women is more likely to be misdiagnosed. Mental health is likely to be the diagnosis for a wide range of conditions that have a clear physical cause, often discovered only after many years of suffering.
I note too that intersectionality is at sometimes deadly and always damaging play here, and that women from BAME backgrounds and the LGBTIQA+ community are more likely to report poor treatment from their GP and receive inadequate support from services.
In the brief time left to me, I thought I would focus on an area still getting far too little attention and, like so many others, that is being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. That is musculoskeletal disorders. I point the House to the excellent briefing for this debate from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, which covers that as well as many other important issues. I should perhaps declare a personal interest here, having relied over many decades on physiotherapists to keep me going and repair damage wrought on the sporting field and in the workplace.
As I read that briefing’s recommendations on preventing musculoskeletal problems through access to occupational health physiotherapy, I thought of some women I met in Sheffield working at picking up baskets for a major supermarket’s home delivery service from midnight to dawn. I heard from them how physically challenging it was and how tough it was in the chiller and freezer sections.
We have to think about the many women who are doing what is often a double shift in the home with child and elder care. They also suffer musculoskeletal damage from that, and would greatly benefit from musculoskeletal first contact physiotherapists in primary care being available to all.
I welcome this important debate on women’s health. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, and thank her profoundly for her deep and permanent commitment to the health and welfare of girls and women.
Like her, I have worked overseas and on the ground as a volunteer on violence against girls and women and, specifically for this debate, on raped and tortured female victims. Indeed the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and I were working on that together only 10 days ago for Yazidi victims. I seek our Government’s ongoing commitment to the plight of these most special girls and women, both here and in the war-torn nations where I work, above all others. These heavily damaged survivors of continuous rape by different but always violent males deserve the very best of surgical and general healthcare.
My praise for our NHS staff and volunteer rape crisis centre teams in Britain, all of whom treat raped girls and women with outstanding care and sensitivity, is unbounded. However, the natural growth of social concern for difference and our proper national commitment to greater inclusion has led to the appointment of natal males to tend to acutely female needs, such as intimate care for mentally challenged in-patient girls, and to lead staff posts in rape victim settings. I believe the noble Baroness will join me in examining these breaches of customary dignities afforded to women whose capacity is either limited since birth, accident or illness or has been compromised by rape or other indignities. Should they not be care for, nurtured and helped to live by fellow females? Common sense and parental requests suggest they surely should, yet that is not the case today. I urge the Minister, for whom I have the highest respect, to pay heed to research and take steps to correct this situation.