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Women’s Healthcare

Volume 748: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2024

We are focused on delivering our women’s health priorities for 2024. Recent successes include new women’s health hubs opening across the country, with £25 million of investment; the investment of nearly £35 million over three years in improving maternity safety, on top of the extra £186 million already being invested each year; the success of the hormone replacement therapy prepayment certificates; and research into the important issue of maternity disparities, which I have already mentioned.

House of Commons Library figures reveal that one in four women with suspected breast cancer are waiting more than two weeks to see a specialist. The waiting list for gynaecological treatments has risen by 40,000 in a year, which means that there are now almost 600,000 women waiting, which is up by a third over two years. Labour has pledged to tackle that backlog, so that more women are seen faster. How much pain, misery or worse do women have to endure before this Government start prioritising their health?

As the hon. Lady will know—she saw the statistics published very recently—we are in fact treating more people at earlier stages of their cancer. I want to take on her point about gynaecological waits, because that is important. We are spending more than £8 billion in this spending review period on additional elective activity, and investing in additional capacity, including community diagnostic centres and surgical hubs, many of which provide gynaecological tests and procedures. She may have missed it, but the latest published management information for March shows that the longest waits for gynaecology services have reduced by nearly 95% since their peak in September 2021. Of course there is more to do, but we are making progress. I thank all the doctors and teams who are involved in that important work.

Today, we have seen alarming figures pointing to the systematic de-prioritisation of women’s health, with 600,000 women in England waiting for gynaecological treatment, 33,000 women waiting more than a year, and under two thirds of eligible women screened for breast cancer in the last three years. Will the Secretary of State come clean and admit that under this Government, women’s health has become an afterthought?

That is absolute nonsense. As I say, I have prioritised women’s health. I am pretty sure that I invited the hon. Lady to the women’s health summit earlier this year.

She is very graciously saying that I did. The point is that I want women to receive the sort of care that we would all hope and expect them to have. I have prioritised that precisely because there are conditions, including gynaecological conditions, that have historically not received the attention they deserve. As our women’s health ambassador Dame Lesley Regan says, the NHS was created by men, for men. I am the Health Secretary who is sorting that out.