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Health & Fitness HRT charges in England are deeply unfair and a new bill is rightly calling for prescriptions to be free

12:00  18 june  2021
12:00  18 june  2021 Source:   msn.com

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There are lots of reasons aside from income why people may get free prescriptions: if you are under aged 16 or over 60, if you are pregnant or in the first year after delivery, for contraception, chronic health conditions which require long-term medication or treatment for stomas, diabetes, epilepsy, hypothyroidism and more.

But in England, unlike in Scotland and Wales, women have to pay for their prescriptions of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Actually, they often have to pay twice as much if they have a womb, as HRT consists of two hormones, progesterone and oestrogen, that may be prescribed as two separate items on the prescription resulting in two charges.

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And if a third hormone, testosterone, is needed, that is three charges, every three months or so, ongoing. With each prescription charge being £9.35, each course, which may be for three months but may be less, costs almost £20. It is simply another chance to penalise and unfairly disadvantage women, who already are dealing with the gender pay gap and so much more, for simply being female and going through the menopause.

The Labour MP Carolyn Harris’s Private Members Bill is calling for the charges on HRT to be scrapped, for England to follow the example of Scotland and Wales, but it is far wider reaching than that one point alone. The Bill also discusses exploring issues around menopause rights and education via a newly launched All–Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the menopause, covering how the menopause is taught in schools, not just secondary schools but medical schools and menopause policies in the workplace.

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a hand holding a blue object: ‘The Labour MP Carolyn Harris’s Private Members Bill is calling for the charges on HRT to be scrapped’ (Photo: Getty) © Provided by The i ‘The Labour MP Carolyn Harris’s Private Members Bill is calling for the charges on HRT to be scrapped’ (Photo: Getty)

Ms Harris states that “despite affecting more than half of the world’s population, menopause remains one of the last great taboos – badly funded and rarely discussed in public”. The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51 years of age, yet women are likely to live on average a further 30 years, or approximately a third of their lives, after this point. While the term menopause simply means your last period, the symptoms can start years before that, not even including women who have a premature or early menopause, in their thirties, twenties or even teens. The menopause is not a moment in time, not something to “get through” and then move on from, rather it should be thought of as a long-term oestrogen deficiency state.

The impact of the loss of those hormones is not simply around the time that the periods end with anything from hot flushes to joint pains, insomnia to irritability, depression to loss of libido and so much more, but has long-term impacts. These include genitourinary syndrome of the menopause which can lead to recurrent urinary-tract infections, osteoporosis, heart disease and more.

The symptoms of the menopause can have an impact on every aspect of life, affecting relationships and their ability to manage at work, with many women considering or leaving work due to their symptoms. For these women, HRT is life changing and life restoring.

The benefits include not just symptom control but a decrease in the risk of osteoporosis and certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer. Women may have come a long way in the past century but are still viewed as somehow lesser after the menopause. This is not true equality, women aren’t past their best once they stop having periods and the prescription fee for HRT is a punitive tax on women, for simply being women.

Dr Philippa Kaye is a GP and the author of ‘The M Word: Everything You Need to Know About the Menopause’ (VIE books, £9.99)

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This is interesting!