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MHF access report calls on DH to act on gender

The Forum's research for the Department of Health into the way men and women access health services has been published online by the Department.

report coverThe Gender and Access to Health Services Study: final report was commissioned by the Department of Health in autumn 2007 from the MHF in partnership with the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. 

The Department's intention was that the report should provide 'an evidence base to help determine key gender health priorities for the Department and the NHS'.   

David Wilkins of the MHF co-ordinated the writing of the report and wrote the introductory essay and the conclusions. Dr Sarah Payne from the University of Bristol, Dr Gillian Granville of Gillian Granville Associates and  Dr Peter Branney from the Centre for Men's Health at Leeds Met. University wrote chapters on six specific areas of health provision central to current NHS provision (cancer, heart disease, alcohol misuse, mental health, sexual health and obesity).

The report will contribute significantly to the DH's ability to meet its statutory responsibilities under the gender equality duty. 


MHF policy officer David Wilkins said: 'For many years, we have been pointing out that men and women use health services differently and that a "one size fits all" approach disadvantages both sexes. The commissioning of this study shows that policy is finally catching up with MHF thinking.'

The study looked at the statistical and epidemiological data, reviewed the academic literature and, despite some significant gaps in knowledge, examined the links between service use and health outcomes. The process included bringing together some of the leading thinkers in the field to discuss the issues at a one day symposium at the King's Fund.

Eight recommendations

The report recommends:

  • Improving the collection, recording and use of gender-disaggregated data (ie. data showing the differences between men and women) in the health service.
  • Prioriting research to improve the 'surprisingly poor' evidence base on the relationship between gender and use of health services.
  • The rigorous enforcement of the statutory requirements under the Equality Act 2006 to implement gender equality schemes and gender impact assessments.
  • The attribution — on a trial basis — of some Q uality and Outcomes Framework points to the achievement of gender-equitable distribution of the service under consideration.
  • a national Tackling Gender Inequalities Programme with to support, evaluate and disseminate good local initiatives which seek measurably to close gender gaps in service use and health outcomes.
  • that the Department of and local health bodies actively seek to influence non-NHS organisations in favour of delivering more gender-equitable services.
  • at primary care level, the commissioning and gender-monitoring of initiatives in three areas: more flexible opening hours; the provision of outreach services; and inviting patients to attend for 'health checks'.
  • a review by the Department of the actions presently in its health inequalities strategy to ensure that they are implemented in a gender-sensitive way.

'We will only see progress when gender becomes established as an issue that belongs on the inequalities agenda along with race, disability and economic status,' said David Wilkins. 'This report will, by making a major contribution to our knowledge base, make it more likely that that will happen.'

Page created on December 19th, 2008

Page updated on December 1st, 2009