Two in five women (40%) with endometriosis require at least 10 GP appointments before being referred, according to a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Women’s Health.
The group conducted a survey of over 2,600 women with fibroids and endometriosis – and found that 42% of women do not believe they were treated with dignity and respect.
Almost two thirds (62%) of respondents said they were not satisfied with the information they received about treatment options.
The RCGP said it had identified women's health 'as a clinical priority' over the next 12 months, and was in the process of developing a programme of work to aid diagnosis and treatment.
The report calls for patients to be taken seriously and not have their symptoms dismissed. They should be given ‘timely referral to appropriate specialist care’, it said.
It further calls for education modules on recognising and treating fibroids and endometriosis to be incorporated into RCGP training.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Women’s health constitutes around a quarter of a GP’s workload; we know that both endometriosis and fibroids can cause women considerable pain and distress, and these are both conditions that GPs and our teams are aware of and take seriously.
‘GPs often find themselves in an incredibly difficult position as the symptoms are so broad, and some are similar to other conditions, and so can only refer if they are sure endometriosis might be the underlying cause, or else secondary care would be unable to cope with demand.
‘Women’s health is a key part of the RCGP curriculum which all GPs must demonstrate competence of in order to practise independently in the UK – and both endometriosis and fibroids are covered in the exams that GP trainees must pass in order to attain MRCGP.
‘The college has recognised women’s health as a clinical priority over the next 12 months and will shortly embark on a programme of work to develop resources to support GPs and our teams in the identification and treatment of women’s health issues.’
Paula Sherriff MP, chair of the APPG, said: ‘The fact that women feel the need to seek further advice and they are not satisfied with the information that professionals give them shows that more needs to be done to empower women so they can make these choices. Women should be given the full range of information, in a written format, so they are able to make an informed choice.’