41% of UK universities do not have mandatory menopause education on the curriculum.
This staggering result comes from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request put to the UK’s 33 medical schools by the founder of Menopause Support and the #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign, Diane Danzebrink.
Menopause campaigner Diane has been calling for mandatory menopause education for all GPs since 2015 when she started speaking out to raise awareness of the needless suffering that so many women experience during menopause due to the lack of GP knowledge. Diane’s own experience of surgical menopause took her very close to taking her own life and she is determined that she will improve things for the future.
Diane’s not for profit organisation, Menopause Support, asked medical schools:
· what they taught about menopause and HRT
· how much time was spent on it
· if it was mandatory and
· how it was taught.
Despite the fact that there are approximately 13 million perimenopausal or post menopausal women in the UK, almost half – a staggering 41% of the 32 medical schools who responded did not have a mandatory menopause education program for their students. This means some doctors may leave university with no education in menopause at all.
Many universities said they expected their students to gain menopause education whilst on GP training placements.
“This is a very risky practice,” Diane says. “It relies entirely on whether the GP trainer is knowledgeable about menopause and HRT and is following up-to-date NICE menopause guidance and advice. Unfortunately, many have little or no formal menopause education and are not familiar with current guidance.”
Members of Diane’s 18,500 strong menopause support community group and women more widely on social media repeatedly say they are denied treatment even though HRT is the first line recommended treatment under NICE guidelines.
“Many women say they are turned away by their doctor, denied treatment for debilitating symptoms when they are not recognised as being connected to menopause and incorrectly offered antidepressants rather than first line treatment which is HRT.”
Diane, whose ongoing lobbying has ensured that menopause is now on the secondary school education curriculum in England, says women are being failed by their doctors simply because of the lack of adequate education in menopause and is calling for:
· mandatory and standardised education across universities
· mandatory, standardised training for GP trainees
· mandatory catch-up CPD courses for GPs.
“It is time for all those involved with GP training to acknowledge that there is a problem and that the curriculum and menopause training for GPs currently in practice needs to be urgently addressed to solve this. Surely it is just common sense for all medical students and every trainee GP to study the same mandatory menopause module during their training and for all current GPs to be updated to ensure that they can help half of the population.”
“This would save time for the individual doctor and money for the NHS, most importantly it would stop the needless suffering of so many women who are still not getting the help that they deserve which can have both short-and-long term effects on their physical and mental health and devastating effects on all aspects of their lives including their relationships and careers.”
It is no coincidence that the suicide rates are highest for women between the ages of 45-54 the average perimenopause and early post-menopausal years.
“Women deserve better.”
In repeated attempts to engage the Royal College of General Practitioners on this subject since 2016, Diane Danzebrink has consistently been advised that menopause is on the curriculum but when pressed for further details, the college has always advised that it has no involvement in the setting of the curricula.
In 2016 the RCGP Postgraduate Training and Curriculum Coordinator wrote:
‘I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that although the RCGP sets the training curriculum and examinations for doctors entering general practice, which includes knowledge and skills relating to the menopause, we do not deliver or approve the training programmes nor oversee the supervision of the trainees. The relevant body responsible for these aspects of training in England is Health Education England.’
In 2020 RCGP chair Martin Marshall stated that:
“Menopause is already included in the GP curriculum, which all GP trainees must demonstrate competence of in order to practise. “Mandatory training courses for some conditions and not others would be unworkable.”
Diane says “Whilst menopause may now have been added to the curriculum our survey clearly shows that it is certainly not mandatory and the inconsistent quality, quantity, depth and breadth of the information available to students will continue to result in a postcode lottery for women which is unacceptable. It also raises questions about the RCGP examination process if those with little or no menopause education can meet the current examination criteria.”
Further survey details can be found here (pdf download)