Updated: Sep 29, 2021
Every GP surgery in Cornwall has signed up to offer their 588,882 patients menstrual health support through social prescription, the first time globally that non-clinical menstrual health has been offered through doctor surgeries. (July 5 2021).
Kate Shepherd Cohen, founder of Menstrual Cycle Support (MCS), who is behind the initiative, recently received the Innovator of the Year 2021 Award at the International Social Prescribing Awards for the initiative. She has received plaudits from the Minister for Women’s Health, party leaders, leading clinicians, period activists and other leaders.
Cornwall is the first place in the world to offer non-clinical menstrual cycle and menopause support through social prescribing, in a bid to reduce period-related suffering and diagnosis times, which stands at eight years for endometriosis alone.
The four month online group courses, free for NHS referrals, are based on Menstrual Cycle Awareness, a method of charting, understanding and reframing the menstrual cycle to manage pain and reduce suffering, created by menstrual wellbeing pioneers Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer, co-founders of the Red School.
The course was initially piloted in January 2021 for patients at St Austell Healthcare, which serves 37,000 patients across five surgeries. After 100% of participants from the course reported an improvement in menstrual wellbeing, Shepherd Cohen reached out to all GP surgeries across the county through the local Primary Care Networks - all of which agreed to offer their patients this new service.
Shepherd Cohen, a menstrual activist, writer and award winning menstrual health pioneer, lives with her husband and three daughters in St Agnes. For several years Shepherd Cohen struggled with chronic period pain, which she has managed to alleviate through the work she now offers to others.
Kate Shepherd Cohen (above), Founder of Menstrual Cycle Support (MCS), says
‘I’m delighted that Cornwall is a pioneer in supporting those suffering with period problems. Whether it’s perimenopause, long COVID, mood disorders, heavy bleeding, irregular or absent cycles, PMS, PMDD, PCOS or endometriosis - we have a pandemic of menstrual cycle suffering. I hope to see this support being offered in every GP surgery in the UK.’
Dr Michael Dixon, Chairman of Social Prescribing Institute, and Chair of the College of Medicine shares Shepherd Cohen’s ambition:
‘This new offering of menstrual cycle group support through social prescription is thoroughly innovative and empowering. I’d like to see it in every surgery in England and across the UK.’
Menstrual Cycle Support (MCS) is working with Meaningful Measures, founded by Dr Marie Polley who is one of the founding members of the international social prescribing movement, to collate data on the impact of nonclinical menstrual cycle support in Cornwall and beyond.
The next course starts in October 2021 and will include a combination of free NHS and paid for places. Patients can learn more about menstrual support on social prescribing and register their interest at kateshepherdcohen.com/referrals
Interviews with Kate and all enquiries: Simon Cohen, 0751 538 7314, firstname.lastname@example.org
Images and video for press: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Q9JLEjjZ5XeJqmWP7 (these were for the International Social Prescribing Awards and are free for you to use if you wish) More on Kate Shepherd Cohen and Menstrual Cycle Support (MCS):https://menstrualcyclesupport.com/ Leader quotes of support: Minister for women’s health, Nadine Dorries, says ‘It is vital that all women and girls are able to access high quality information and advice about every aspect of their health, and that we do all we can to tackle harmful taboos around periods which can prevent women from speaking out and seeking support. Women experience period problems differently and it can affect them mentally as well as physically. This new initiative is a positive step forward, and I am confident it will support more women and girls to manage their symptoms, and empower them to discuss treatment with healthcare providers.’ Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, says: ‘Endometriosis is a painful, debilitating disease that too often goes undiagnosed. We need to make sure that all women across the UK have access to this support. We cannot fail Endometriosis sufferers any longer. This initiative will help bring down the terribly high diagnosis times for endometriosis and help people who may have been suffering in silence with pain or other symptoms - unsure if any help was available, or how to get it - to come forward.’ Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, says ‘This is a big step forward for women’s health, and for the thousands of women who are ignored, disbelieved and shamed into silence about their symptoms. Just like mental health, menstrual health needs more sunlight and candour - the more we talk about it the better we can manage it. Far from letting the NHS off the hook, this approach will force it to do better and be more responsive to women.’ President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Edward Morris, says: ‘We welcome this initiative which will enable women and girls to better track their menstrual cycle and access further support if they are suffering from period related problems. We know that many aspects of women and girls’ health – specifically periods- are still not talked about openly and honestly, and this often acts as a barrier to them approaching healthcare professionals if something doesn’t seem right. The stigma and shame surrounding periods means that many girls and women are suffering unnecessarily from manageable or treatable conditions. The more reliable, accurate education and information is available to women and girls the better.’ Zoe Davies, St Austell patient says ‘This free course is badly needed, especially at this time when the pandemic has put such a strain on finances. It’s reassuring that GPs can refer to a support course, other than just giving prescription drugs.’ Further notes
Patient population of Primary Care Networks in Cornwall: https://www.kernowccg.nhs.uk/primary-care/primary-care-networks/
900,000 quit U.K. jobs due to menopause; global menopause productivity losses top $150 billion a year
1 in 3 women suffer with menstrual dysfunction, leading to disruption of work, education, social and family life. (RCGP)
4000 women have reported changes to their menstrual cycle following covid vaccine