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There are 29,000 doctors who are female and aged between 45 and 54. That’s around one in 10 of those on the medical register. So chances are you know or work alongside someone who is experiencing menopausal symptoms. Some may be seriously affected; at times, they may be struggling to cope.
You may be going through the menopause yourself, of course, in which case we want to hear from you: is it affecting you at work, and if so, how?
Symptoms and stressors
Like many of you, I’m used to listening to and supporting patients with menopausal symptoms. But, as with many things, we often fail to recognise our own needs – or when our colleagues might need some extra support with those same symptoms.
Experiences of the menopause vary greatly, particularly in terms of duration and severity of symptoms. But most women going through menopausal transition have some symptoms, and many experience problems at work as a result, according to this review of the impact of menopause on UK economic participation.
It also reveals that some aspects of work make menopausal symptoms worse, including: hot or poorly ventilated environments; stress related to workload, deadlines or responsibility; lack of access to adequate toilet facilities, cold drinking water, quiet rest areas and regular breaks; and unsuitable or uncomfortable workwear. It’s not too hard to imagine how challenging NHS workplaces might be.
Menopausal women also frequently report feeling that those around them are unsympathetic or treat them badly at work. Some say this is ‘gendered ageism’. Whatever we call it, it makes it less likely for those experiencing difficulties to speak up and seek support. This really worries me – it could mean the NHS is at risk of losing experienced doctors at a time when a more understanding, flexible and supportive approach could have made all the difference.
Today, the BMA is launching a short survey to find out more about how menopausal symptoms might be affecting some of our members at work, and what more could be done to support those who need it.
The survey should only take five minutes to complete, and it's a real opportunity to advocate for doctors and to help implement changes in their workplaces. Some NHS employers are already leading the way, as highlighted in this new NHS Employers web resource. NHS Wales has a menopause policy in place. And ACAS recently published guidance on menopause at work.
We want to hear from you, our members, to make sure the specific issues affecting doctors are addressed and to help spread awareness and good practice on menopause at work.
Helena McKeown is chair of the BMA representative body
Take part in our survey here
Yes it is affecting me currently but there is no support from any colleagues or practice manager and they increase the expectations and give more pressure and responsibility
This is such an important issue - all employers need to look at normalising menopause related health issues and accommodating minor adjustments and as a result they will have a commitment from a dedicated group of employees. I heard Kathy Abernathy speak about this recently and if we are to sustain a workforce in the NHS until 67 then this state which women are in for 16 years needs to be accommodated.
I was a GP partner.
I had a surgical menopause at 46 for presumed ovarian ca (but was grade 4 endometriosis with a frozen pelvis). I had significant post op complications including a hospital-acquired multi-drug resistant wound infection and also pseudomonas, causing wound dehiscence and considerable pain.
When I returned to work I was utterly exhausted, sleeping for up to 4 hours in the day when I was not at work. I said I could not work full-time (4 days a week) and asked to work 3 days a week instead on a phased return.
I was doubted at work ‘you look very well for someone who says they’ve been so ill’, I was questioned about the validity of my Med3 ‘it looks like it has 2 signatures on it’, I was asked to write a business plan supporting my request to reduce from full-time partnership.
I paid for a locum for one day a week while I continued to cover the full admin load of my list and work 3 full clinical days.
I was repeatedly told I was letting down the partnership. A fellow partner asked me if it must be nice having a day off in the week to go shopping.
I said I thought I had testosterone deficiency post surgery and was doubted.
After a few months of feeling lack of support and feeling bullied I resigned.
I was subsequently diagnosed with testosterone deficiency and after starting off label treatment I returned to full health over a few months. I am now locuming.