Dr Anne Connolly MBE is a GP with a special interest in gynaecology at Bevan Healthcare in Bradford and a founding member and Chair of the Primary Care Women’s Healthcare Forum.


Hello, my name is Anne.

Dr Anne ConnollyAs this year’s International Women’s Day (#IWD2022) approaches on Tuesday 8 March 2022, I wanted to share my thoughts on the inequalities that still face women, both in our working lives and as members of our local communities.

The theme for this year’s event is #BreakTheBias – that’s the gender bias that can exist in health and care, in our careers, in our everyday lives. As health and care professionals, we have a duty to acknowledge the inequalities faced by women when accessing health and care.

Although female life expectancy is higher in the UK than for men, women on average spend less of their life in good health compared with men. Female life expectancy in this country has been improving more slowly than male life expectancy since the 1980s. When you look at social, economic and wider determinants the difference grows even starker.

I see this every day in my role as a GP at Bevan Healthcare CiC in Bradford, working with people seeking asylum, refugees, those who are homeless and local sex workers. As we know all too well as a partnership, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to ensure equity for across West Yorkshire.

To coincide with International Women’s Day 2021, the UK Government acknowledged the equity gap in health and care when it called for women to share their experiences to inform the development of a new national Women’s Health Strategy.

In its call to action, the Government highlighted just some of the inequalities faced by women when accessing health and care:

  • Less is known about conditions that only affect women, including common gynaecological conditions which can have severe impacts on health and wellbeing, but for which there is currently little treatment. For example, for endometriosis the average time to receive a diagnosis is 7-8 years with 40% of women needing 10 or more GP appointments before being referred to a specialist.
  • There is evidence that the impact of female-specific health conditions such as heavy menstrual bleeding, endometriosis, pregnancy-related issues and the menopause on women’s lives is overlooked. This includes the effect they can have on women’s workforce participation, productivity, and outcomes.
  • Studies suggest gender biases in clinical trials and research are contributing to worse health outcomes for women. Although women make up 51% of the population, there is less evidence and data on how conditions affect women differently. A University of Leeds study showed women with a total blockage of a coronary artery were 59% more likely to be misdiagnosed than men and found that UK women had more than double the rate of death in the 30 days following heart attack compared with men.

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) is working on a separate project on improving menopause management which I support as women’s health champion for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). This work over the next 12 months will produce:

  • outputs to provide people going through the menopause with information about their choices for management
  • resources to support menopausal women in the workplace
  • menopause education for primary care healthcare professionals

As working women, we deal with the bias we face everyday in work and at home. It can be exhausting, but there are shoots of hope.

One of the key missions of #IWD2022 is to build inclusive workplaces where women thrive. You can read about work that is underway globally to ensure that there is increased visibility for the menopause in the workplace on the #IWD2022 website.

So when the team at West Yorkshire asked if I’d be interested in working together to raise awareness about the menopause to mark the event, I was delighted to support. I am chair of the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF) where we have created a public-facing campaign - #RockMyMenopause – to do just that.

You can listen to the views, thoughts and experiences of working women across health and care in West Yorkshire in our upcoming  ‘We work together – the menopause’ podcast which is being released next week to mark #IWD2022.

As well as the podcast, there’s a new menopause online resource section and free online menopause sessions in partnership with Henpicked for colleagues, partners, family, friends and line managers and wider plans in our places to make the menopause mainstream.

If we are to truly tackle the gender bias that exists within our experiences as women accessing health and care, then we need to start somewhere by creating understanding and compassion within our own workforce.

The menopause should not be taboo. It’s a life stage that should be talked about openly, supported compassionately and those experiencing it should be met with kindness and not intolerance.

The West Yorkshire team and places across our region are doing this before the publication of the DHSC’s Women’s Strategy, before NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) releases its menopause guidance… we’re working together on this as it’s the right thing to do for all of us working across health and care.

Join us to #BreakTheBias this International Women’s Day – taking one step closer to gender equality, one step closer to dismantling gender stereotypes, one step closer to reducing the health inequalities faced by women across our nation.

Have a good weekend,

International Women’s Day (#IWD2020) is taking place on Tuesday 8 March 2022. You can take part by sharing your #BreakTheBias selfie on social media.