Over half a million women waiting for gynaecology care and treatment

A new report from The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reveals the devastating impact of long waits for gynaecology care for 570,000 women in the UK

4th May 2022

Back to news

More than half a million women are experiencing heavy bleeding, extreme pain and poor mental health as a result of prolonged gynaecology waiting times, according to a report published by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused non-urgent treatments to be paused, preventing the NHS from delivering planned gynaecology care. This has led to the largest backlog in elective care the NHS has ever seen.

Wellbeing of Women is backing calls made by the RCOG for an overhaul of gynaecology care and treatments in the NHS, to recognise the impact of prolonged waiting times on women’s quality of life.

A survey by the RCOG of 837 women waiting for gynaecology care found that 80% say their mental health has worsened as a result of long waiting times. More than three quarters say their ability to work or take part in social activities has been negatively impacted and 63% feel they have been ignored.

In England, the number of women waiting more than a year for treatment has gone from less than one in 1,000 women on the waiting list pre-pandemic to more than one in 20.

There are also clear differences in gynaecological care in different parts of the country, with the worst-affected Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in England having a waiting list over five times larger than the CCG with the lowest waiting list.

The RCOG’s report makes a series of recommendations, which include changing the way care is prioritised by the NHS, ring-fencing funding for the long-term sustainability of elective gynaecology and targeting areas where waiting lists are longest. 

Responding to the report, Janet Lindsay, CEO of Wellbeing of Women, said:

“It is extremely concerning that half a million women in the UK are waiting for a gynaecology appointment. In England, waiting times have shot up by as much as 60% during the pandemic - the largest increase of all medical specialities. This shows, once again, that women’s health is not prioritised and gynaecological conditions are not considered as serious or important.

“Sadly, these long waiting times means that women will continue to suffer from debilitating symptoms, such as very painful periods and heavy bleeding for conditions, like endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women’s lives are also significantly affected by other conditions, such as urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

“Urgent action is required to ensure women’s voices are heard and healthcare services meet their needs. The Government has made this a key priority and we look forward to the Women’s Health Strategy which offers a unique opportunity to reset the dial and get it right for women after many years of neglect.”

Read the full RCOG policy report: Left for too long: Understanding the scale and impact of gynaecology waiting lists

If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek support from your GP, the NHS, Samaritans or Mind.