Nickie Aiken MP, vice chair of the Menopause APPG, speaks exclusively to Marie Claire UK about the move.
The cost of repeat prescriptions for women on hormone replacement therapy – otherwise known as HRT – will be “significantly reduced,” the government has confirmed.
The move, which was decided in parliament on Friday, comes just days before parliament figures debate further funding and care for women experiencing female health conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS.
HRT is prescribed to women experiencing menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, irregular periods and depression, to name a few.
Normally it costs around £9.35 per item in England – but under the new changes, women could see savings of up to £205 each year.
The promise was made during the second reading of Labour MP Carolyn Harris’ private members’ bill in the House of Commons, as government also announced the creation of a “Menopause Taskforce”, co-chaired by the Minister for Women’s Health and Carolyn Harris MP, aimed at re-educating on menopause, changing workplace policies and establishing peer groups for menopausal women.
Health minister Maria Caulfield explained that while the Government can’t make HRT exempt from prescription charges altogether, they will “amend the regulations to reduce the costs and improve access to HRT.”
HRT works by replacing the hormones a woman stops producing when she hits menopause, namely oestrogen and progesterone.
Davina McCall was among the supporters who took to the streets to campaign on Friday, calling for the charge to be written off altogether.
They maintain that it’s a financial barrier likely stopping many women from seeking treatment and pricing “others out altogether”.
We spoke to Nickie Aiken MP, vice chair of the Menopause APPG, to get the inside scoop.
“Last week we hosted a very important debate in the Commons to discuss and celebrate (yes, celebrate) Menopause Awareness Month. Colleagues from all sides of the Chamber joined together to talk openly about their own personal experiences of menopause.”
“Because that really is the point – it is something that is experienced by over half of the population at some time in their lives, and yet we don’t speak about it as much as we should, or make enough provisions in healthcare or the workplace.”
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“I’m pleased to say that the government has listened, and has announced that the cost of repeatable HRT prescriptions will be cut. This move will not only save women who rely on HRT to alleviate symptoms of the menopause, hundreds of pounds a year, but will make a huge difference to the lives of so many across the country.”
“I also believe that by making HRT more accessible in this way, we can begin to speak more openly about the menopause.”
“Considering that around 400,000 women begin their menopause journey each year, it is a subject that seems to be disproportionally taboo, spoken about in hushed tones away from partners, children, colleagues, and even friends. You may have heard your mum or female relatives whispering about the mysterious ‘change’ as an explanation for certain, usually negative behaviours.”
“This narrative has been very unhelpful, and further perpetuates the idea that life for women ends once the menopause begins – but I believe it is quite the opposite.”
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“Though the symptoms can be debilitating, with the right support at home or in the workplace, treatment (such as HRT) and lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), the menopause can be the beginning of an exciting new chapter for women.”
“That is why it is essential that women have access to high quality healthcare and support, and why today’s announcement is so important – we should be given the information and tools to feel empowered to make informed decisions about our own health, be that menstrual health, the menopause or any other women’s health issue.”
“I was first struck by the menopause at 48 (I say struck because it was like being struck by a truck) when I started to feel an array of different symptoms. I had a blood test, which showed that all my hormone levels were fine. Apparently this ruled out menopause as the cause.”
“I remember my GP phoning and asking, ‘how are you?’ and I replied, ‘well, apart from the acne, the hair loss, the weight gain, the stress, the insomnia and the anxiety, I’m absolutely fine.’ To which she said with no hesitation, ‘HRT.’”
“And I have to say, I have never looked back – it has been a lifeline.”
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“I discussed the provision of HRT and the importance of breaking the silence that surrounds the menopause with the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, when I met him last week – I am so pleased that he too agrees that easier and cheaper access to HRT will be a massive benefit to women.”
“He also agreed with me that men too have an important role to play in breaking down the conversational barriers, so that they can properly support their partners, mums, sisters, friends and work colleagues.”
“I was also very pleased to learn that the menopause will be a priority area in the government’s forthcoming Women’s Health Strategy, which will take an end-to-end look at women’s health, from adolescence to older age – and will be published in the coming months.”
“The strategy was launched with a public call for evidence, where menopause emerged as a key theme with respondents, and more specifically their worries around managing menopause in the workplace, and feeling uncomfortable discussing it with friends, family and clinicians.”
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“As a perimenopausal woman, and I do say that with pride, I think this proves that we all need to discuss this now, and in public. This is not just a women’s issue; this is a people’s issue.”
“Women usually begin their menopause between 45 and 55, meaning swathes of the UK’s workforce are currently in the throes of it – therefore we need to make sure women are getting the support they need in the workplace so they can thrive in their careers – before, during and after their menopause. Companies need to focus on developing strategies to help their women through this, and also to educate colleagues so they too can understand and support women in the office.”
“I’ve seen the benefits of this recently when a group of male colleagues asked me to explain to them in detail what I, and many other women around them are experiencing – safe to say, I gave them a full description.”
“As a woman who, I believe, is in the prime of her life and hopefully just at the beginning of her parliamentary political career, knowing that I not only have HRT, but the right support system around me means that I am able to focus on doing the very best I can do in my job.”
“The conversation around menopause is already changing for the better – but I want it to go further. If we are ever going to break down the barriers and make menopause a less mysterious, taboo subject, everyone must be included in the discussion.”
“That is why I’m proud to support the government’s announcement on HRT today, and also the work they’re doing on the Women’s Health Strategy, which not only seeks to make women’s voices heard, but puts them at the centre of the care they receive. I hope in doing this, menopausal women like me will no longer feel lost and alone but will instead embrace and celebrate the next stage of our lives.”
“The Menopause Revolution has begun.”