It is vital that O&G doctors understand how women really feel and what’s important to them. That's why we are delighted that the groups of women who inform our work have continued to grow in numbers and in influence.
Listening to women’s voices
Our Women’s Voices Involvement Panel is an online group of 400 members of the public who want to use their experiences of women’s health services to influence and shape the work of the College. They are involved in a range of activities, from commenting on guidelines and patient information to being involved in key project groups. The Women’s Network is a group of 14 women who provide a lay perspective at a strategic level across many of the College’s core committees.
Better resources for women
We introduced 12 new and revised information leaflets last year, developed by clinicians and the public, to help women and their partners better understand a range of conditions, treatments and procedures. These included leaflets on birth options after a previous caesarean, endometriosis and early miscarriage.
It is important our information for women is presented in an accessible and engaging way. The area of our website designed for patients and pregnant women, which grew significantly in 2015, saw traffic increase by 50%, pushing page views to more than a million.
Shaping better health outcomes
Women, as patients and mothers, are helping to shape the quality improvement projects being run by the Lindsay Stewart Centre. Several members of the Women’s Voices Involvement Panel sit on project advisory groups, using their first-hand experiences to feed in at a strategic level, as well as determining how to best communicate the outcomes of these projects with the public and other women like themselves.
Helping women make informed choices through clinical audit
The National Maternity and Perinatal Audit (NMPA), which will identify good practice and areas for improvement in maternity services, has a Clinical Reference Group that is chaired by a member of the Women’s Network.
A women and families involvement group has also been created to provide critical input into what the NMPA measures, how it measures it, and how the findings are presented and communicated. The end result will be an interactive website where maternity care providers, commissioners and service users will be able to benchmark the care provided by one service against another, similar services, regional or national averages or local or national standards.
Providing a patient perspective
If a maternity or gynaecology unit feels there is an issue with their service they can commission a review and invite a panel of clinical and non-clinical experts from the RCOG to carry out an Invited Review. In November 2015 we appointed and trained 10 lay assessors to join the clinicians who carry out the reviews. Lay assessors have now become a core part of our review service, offering an invaluable perspective on the service and the impact it is having on women and their partners.
International Women’s Day
The focus for our successful 2016 International Women’s Day was breaking down the barriers to high-quality maternal mental health care. As many as 10–20% of women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within a year of having their baby, but almost half of pregnant women in the UK and new mothers have no access to specialist maternal mental health services. The 189 delegates who attended the event all agreed it was inspiring.
70 patient information leaflets are now available on various conditions, treatments and procedures
43% of women in Great Britain are aware of the RCOG, up 5% since 2015
Our Facebook page had 25,382 likes, up 18.3% on 2015
It’s important for women’s wellbeing to have access to help and support when suffering from postnatal mental health issues but this help is also essential for the future wellbeing of the whole family.
Maria Viner, Mothers for Mothers director, speaking at our International Women’s Day
Women's Voices Lead
“We’re passionate about women’s health”
Kate Brian, a former television journalist, was appointed as the first Women’s Voices Lead in June 2016. Her role includes chairing the Women’s Network and ensuring women’s views are embedded across all RCOG activities. She is determined that the College should become the gold standard for patient involvement.
“The women who are involved with the Women’s Network and Women’s Voices are really passionate about women’s health and so are obstetricians and gynaecologists. Working together presents great opportunities.
“Since I started, we have made a real effort to increase the diversity of the women involved and we particularly focused on recruiting younger women after noticing we had a gap there. Some of the younger members took part in their first workshop, run in conjunction with Cardiff University. It was fantastic to see how excited they were about being involved and having their views heard. It was really eye opening to hear about the things they weren’t properly informed about, wanted to know more about and also where they got information from.
“It has also been a fabulous achievement to finally get the information hub for women about the menopause and health in later life on the RCOG website after a great collaborative effort from the Women’s Network, clinicians and other women’s health organisations. Every woman goes through the menopause, yet when you compare the information available about pregnancy and birth with what’s available about the menopause you can see it’s something we don’t talk about enough. It’s good that women have access to reliable evidence-based information from a range of trusted sources through the hub.
“There is so much information out there about medical issues, but a lot of it is inaccurate or coming from a particular point of view, so it’s really important that people are offered solid, reliable evidence-based information. The College’s commitment to producing information for women helps them to make informed and empowered choices about their health.
“The College is increasingly being seen as an advocate for women’s health. I think the perception that it’s an old-fashioned organisation that doesn’t want to listen is fast becoming a thing of the past. The College has changed so much in its culture and profile and how it interacts with women and this message needs to get through to everyone.
“There is a really genuine understanding within the College of the value of engaging with women; listening to them, taking their views seriously and involving them in decision making. If women are happy with the service and care they receive, it makes life easier for the obstetricians and gynaecologists too.
“At the end of my three year term in office I’d like to be able to say we had increased the diversity of the women giving their views, had made more women aware of all the good work the RCOG is doing, had increased our impact within the College and were sharing best practice with other Colleges as there is great merit in sharing ideas. I really feel we’re heading in the right direction but there’s still a lot more work to do.”
Interested in getting involved with the college?
Visit our website to find out how you could contribute towards improving women’s health care.