My role


The NHS must bend to gender 

MHF president Dr Ian Banks looks ahead to the introduction of the public sector gender duty in April.


Ian banksNow bend your ears around this one; in April all NHS deliverers of health services or health information will need to do so with gender equality. This is not just government policy or even a good idea. It is actually legal requirement.

For PCT managers, GP practice based commissioners, pharmacies and all the rest of the hard pressed NHS it sounds like yet another daft hoop to jump through just to show 'fit for purpose'. Right in the middle of a national health provision crisis with so many PCTs backs to the wall, bricklayers seem a better idea than lawyers. So why now? And for that matter why Y and why the XX factor?

In short, both sexes come off second best when to comes to delivering health services without first taking into consideration the age, ethnic culture, social class, social isolation and yes, gender of the person. It's not a matter or being better or worse just simply different.

Work from the Mens Health Forum shows that men and women take up and act upon health information very differently depending upon the way it is presented. The effectiveness of this action in term of early diagnosis, for example, is further influenced by all the other social factors. This is not simply a matter of genetics. Being a prostate owner doesn't necessarily mean you must inevitably die on average 8 years earlier but tell this to men living in Glasgow living on average 67 years compared with Dorset's 78 years. An average sentence for murder in terms of life expectancy, simply for being male, is hard to swallow not least when current government compulsory pension policies will mean Scottish men paying for the extended life of Dorset men living on their allotments, in Spain.

Until the age of around 50 years men use general practice services half as much as do women. "Not such a bad idea" I hear from hard pressed GPs across the country but the upshot is there are twice as many hospital admissions from men after this watershed age. In fact male A&E admissions account for by far the greatest number of horizontal patients in hospital wards.

This is serious stuff. Vertical men, out in the community, earning their daily bread will not only keep the wolves from the door of the NHS they reduce the impact of ill health on their partners and children. Once they go lateral, jammy incapacity sets in.

It's not really rocket science either, going to where men are, the work place for instance, is now well established in areas such as weight reduction, cancer awareness and early diagnosis. Evaluated material from the Mens Health Forum such as the Haynes Health Manuals really can make a difference as shown from their use in the European award winning work with Royal Mail and BT.

Essentially a lateral rethink is required to stop men going horizontal and this is not just a good idea, government policy or PC thinking. It's not even just a recognition that men from lower income groups should not be like some Mission Impossible tape and destruct early leaving family devastation behind them. Come April, this will be law. Bending is always better than breaking, ask any tree.

Page created on February 1st, 2007

Page updated on December 1st, 2009