The first menopause passport in the NHS has been launched today (Thursday 10 November) by University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust. The Trust, which employs more than 18,000 women, has introduced its menopause passport to help staff feel comfortable and supported as they approach and experience the menopause.
Hot flushes are the symptom most often associated with the menopause, but many women suffer from much more debilitating symptoms such as brain fog, anxiety and insomnia. These symptoms, and many more, can have a serious impact on women’s lives. Only recently, national research showed that 10% of women leave their jobs, and many more are reducing their hours or passing up promotions, because of their menopausal symptoms.
Because every woman’s menopause is completely unique and different, the passport will help ensure women get the right support for them.
As well as fast-tracking help and advice, it can also be used to request adjustments to their working environment, such as wearing a lighter uniform or a change to working patterns.
The menopause passport was the idea of UHB nurse Wendy Madden, who has worked for the Trust for 20 years.
She said: “The menopause passport came about because I wanted to use my experience to help make sure that women can talk openly, with confidence about their symptoms, and to get the support that they need.
“I was 45 when my symptoms started, at first it was mood swings and irregular periods, it soon progressed into anxiety, brain fog and forgetfulness, and some days I struggled to string a sentence together. Coming to work was a real struggle and when I got home I was so tired I would go straight to bed. I thought all women went through the same thing, so I just didn’t say anything to anybody.
“It wasn’t until the symptoms were so bad, that I felt I had no quality of life that I got help from my doctor. HRT made the world of difference, but I was still missing someone to talk to. It wasn’t long afterwards that I became chair of the Trust’s Women’s Staff Network, and I began work on the passport.”
The passport is the next step for the Trust, which, with Wendy’s help, has established a menopause support group, a network of menopause champions and staff-only Q&A sessions with its menopause expert.
Chief People Officer, Cathi Shovlin said: “Of the 18,000 women employed at UHB, around 5,000 of those are 50 years old or older; these women are experienced NHS staff. It makes sense that we put time and effort into making sure that they, and future generations, have the support they need to be happy and comfortable at work, ensuring we retain their immense skills and expertise. The menopause passport will be a huge part of that support and I am delighted that we can launch it today.”