Press release

Health Secretary announces new women's health priorities for 2024

Problem periods, women’s health research and support for domestic and sexual abuse victims are among the government’s priorities.

  • Top priorities to be tackled under the Women’s Health Strategy in 2024 include menstrual problems and menopause, maternity care and birth trauma support
  • Support for domestic and sexual abuse victims and women in the criminal justice system will also be improved
  • Health Secretary addresses women’s health champions at major London event to outline plans for coming year and celebrate successes of strategy’s first year
  • Successes since the launch include reducing the cost of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the rollout of women’s health hubs
  • £50 million for research to tackle maternity disparities

The Health and Social Care Secretary has named problem periods, women’s health research and support for domestic and sexual abuse victims among the government’s priorities for women’s health in 2024. 

Speaking at the Women’s Health Summit in central London to mark the second year of the landmark Women’s Health Strategy for England, Victoria Atkins said it would also prioritise improving maternity care and support for mothers who suffer birth trauma.

This follows a raft of successes over the strategy’s first 12 months, including reducing the cost of HRT for nearly half a million women, and the rollout of specialist women’s health hubs in every local health area. The strategy also championed the creation of a new dedicated women’s health section of the NHS website, providing updated information, advice and practical resources for women’s health across the life course.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, said:  

We’re breaking historical barriers that prevent women getting the care they need, building greater understanding of women’s healthcare issues and ensuring their voices and choices are listened to. 

We’ve made huge progress - enabling almost half a million women access to cheaper HRT, supporting women through the agony of pregnancy loss and opening new women’s health hubs - but I absolutely recognise there is more to do. 

We’re ensuring these changes benefit all women, regardless of socioeconomic background or ethnicity, because our Women’s Health Strategy is only a success if it works for all women.

The 2024 priorities were developed from responses to the government’s call for evidence from over 100,000 healthcare professionals, women’s health champions, members of the public and other stakeholders across the health sector. They are:

  • better care for menstrual and gynaecological conditions - by rolling out women’s health hubs, producing new guidance for healthcare professionals, continuing to improve information and support for women suffering from painful heavy periods and endometriosis, and promoting easier access to contraception - which often plays a vital role in managing menstrual problems. The Office for National Statistics will investigate the impact of period problems and endometriosis on women’s participation and progress at work, improving our understanding to achieve reductions in diagnosis times

  • expanding women’s health hubs - by delivering through our £25 million investment, the hubs will improve women’s access to care, improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities. We are working towards the aim of establishing one fully functioning hub in every local area this year, enabling better access and quality of care in services for menstrual problems, contraception, pelvic pain, menopause care and more

  • tackling disparities and improving support for vulnerable women including victims of sexual abuse and violence by ensuring training and support systems are working collaboratively and efficiently. This will include creating new models within the NHS to protect its staff. We will focus on improving the health of women in the justice system, by implementing the recommendations set out in the National Women’s Prison Health and Social Care Review

  • bolstering maternity care, before during and after pregnancy - by continuing to deliver on NHS England’s 3-year delivery plan for maternity and neonatal services and ensuring women understand the care they can expect from the NHS during pregnancy and after giving birth. We will also be supporting women who suffer with birth trauma and ensure both mental and physical health are prioritised. A greater focus will be placed on preconception and postnatal care for women, raising awareness of pregnancy sickness and actioning the recommendations set out in the Pregnancy Loss Review. Through the first ever National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) ‘challenge’, backed by £50 million, researchers, policymakers and women will be tasked with finding new ways to tackle maternity disparities

  • more research - a vital component to levelling up the playing field for women’s health. In addition to the NIHR challenge, we are building on the £53 million invested via the NIHR programmes and will continue to improve how women are represented in medical research through the NIHR research inclusion strategy

Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield, said:  

Helping women and girls who suffer from bad periods can make a huge difference to their lives, education and careers. And any woman who has experienced trauma after giving birth - either mentally or physically - will know the impact it can have on all aspects of her life. 

These are issues that impact women but they should not be seen as ‘women’s problems’ - it is an everyone problem. We are doing more to put these issues on the agenda and keep them there, to close the gender health gap once and for all.

We’ve made enormous strides in the first year of the strategy and I’m excited to see what 2024 will bring.

As well as announcing its new priorities, the government announced the reappointment of Professor Dame Lesley Regan as Women’s Health Ambassador for England for a further 2 years, to December 2025.   

Professor Dame Lesley was appointed as the Women’s Health Ambassador in 2022 and brings a raft of expertise spanning a 44-year career in women’s health as a practising clinician. She has specialised in core areas including miscarriage, period problems, gynaecological surgery and menopause. 

Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Women’s Health Ambassador, said:  

Our Women’s Health Strategy is ambitious. It was created to ensure our healthcare system places women’s health on an equal footing to men. 

I want women everywhere to feel confident that when they seek advice from their healthcare professional, whether it’s for heavy or painful periods or issues following birth, they know they are going to receive world-class treatment. This is the ultimate goal of the strategy, and I am delighted that we have made such positive progress in the first year and generated so much enthusiastic help to succeed.

This coming year offers us the opportunity of taking further steps forward in delivering better healthcare outcomes for every woman in our society.

Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May, said:

The NHS is committed to ensuring women’s individual healthcare needs are met, which is why every area of England is being supported to develop a women’s health hub alongside the rollout of a network of Women’s Health Champions, who will use their leadership and experience to drive forward work to improve women’s health.

The NHS is also rolling out dedicated pelvic health clinics, and every local health system now has a specialist community perinatal mental health team and we have also made it easier to access contraception through local pharmacies.

But there is clearly more to do which is why it is brilliant to see the publication of the women’s health priorities for 2024.

CEO of Endometriosis UK, Emma Cox, said:

Women’s health has long been an underfunded and under-researched area. Implementing the aspirations in the Women’s Health Strategy will provide a much needed boost to turning this around, improving treatment and the lives of those suffering from endometriosis and menstrual health conditions.

At Endometriosis UK, we know that many women face an unacceptable delay in securing a diagnosis and appropriate care. With sufficient funding and support, women’s health hubs could offer a real opportunity to drive down diagnosis times and support women to access the support they need.

We’re delighted Professor Dame Lesley Regan has been reappointed and we look forward to continuing to support her vital and much needed work to deliver the key priorities outlined within the Women’s Health Strategy.

Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

We are pleased to see the government launching their 2024 priorities for the women’s health strategy at our Union Street home, also the location of 15 other women’s health organisations.

The focus on improving care and treatment for women with gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids, which are often progressive, and have a huge impact on a woman’s quality of life, is hugely welcome. We have continually called for action to improve waiting lists in gynaecology services and know that women’s health hubs present a real opportunity to improve women’s health outcomes, and reduce inequalities in access and outcomes for women across the country. I am also glad to see that ensuring high quality care following birth trauma, an area of care which has long been a professional and personal passion of mine, has been recognised as a key focus for government.

We also want to congratulate our former president, Professor Dame Lesley Regan, for her excellent leadership of the women’s health agenda at a national level and her well-deserved reappointment as Women’s Health Ambassador. As a dedicated advocate for a life course approach to women’s health, we have every faith she will continue to provide excellent leadership to drive the strategy forward.

Background information

Over the past year, a range of new actions have begun to make England one of the best places to be for women’s health: 

There have been various cross-government initiatives to support women in the workplace, including: 

Read the government’s response to the independent Pregnancy Loss Review. The government will continue to involve the Pregnancy Loss Review leads Zoe Clark-Coates and Samantha Collinge in rolling out the recommendations. 

Read details on the £25 million investment in women’s health hubs and cost-benefit analysis.

The NIHR, alongside other organisations, recently published a statement of intent for developing policy and practice which sees sex and gender fully accounted for in research.

Published 17 January 2024