Women who face four-hour journeys for specialist menopause healthcare say they feel 'forgotten'

  • A special report by ITV Cymru Wales' Carole Green and Cadi Edwards.

Women in Anglesey have voiced their concerns over a lack of specialist menopause care close to home, as the nearest clinic is at least 70 miles away in Wrexham.

Every morning at the serene Porth Eilian beach in Anglesey, a group of women gather to enjoy a cold dip in the crisp water followed by a shore-side cup of coffee and a natter.

The conversations shared between women from all walks of life offer a chance to voice concerns and give support.

Speaking to ITV Cymru Wales, the group expressed their "desperate need" for more support when going through the menopause.

Open-water swimming has offered this group of women much-needed support as they endure menopause symptoms. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Many shared anecdotes of completing four-hour round trips to receive much-needed specialist support, often having to miss work due to the distance.

The nearest specialist clinic to these women in Anglesey is based in Deeside and Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

Many women on the island, unable to receive accessible support for their menopause symptoms, have turned to an alternative method to alleviate some of the strain: cold water swimming.

Julia Ball, one of the group's organisers, discussed the positive impact open water swimming has had on her menopause symptoms.

She said: "Obviously it brings that cold feeling straight away. Then, very shortly after that, you do feel this sense of total calm. Then your breath works with you, you're into the water and all is really good in the world."

By attending the cold water swim sessions, Julia and others have found invaluable camaraderie. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Many women like Julia, who are going through the menopause, say sea swimming gives a much-needed physical and mental boost.

She added: "For myself within the menopause age group, with the hot flushes and what not, the cold water in the sea has massively helped with aspects of that.

"To have a specialist here and other support specialists, menopause practitioners, to enable us to be able to go speak and get the help that's needed with all these feelings that you do have at this time of your life, would be an amazing thing and so helpful to the community."

Delyth Owen has started a petition calling for more support in targeted at areas like Anglesey. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Delyth Owen, from Anglesey, started a petition earlier this year calling for menopause support to be available closer to home.

The petition reads: "This should be on our doorstep in Ysbyty Gwynedd with more specialist services local to north Wales including regular updates for GPs, gynaecologists, practitioners and employers supporting them on menopause and the benefits of HRT."

According to Delyth, some women have had to seek help privately, a decision many cannot afford.

The burden of menopause symptoms is felt not only by the individual, but the whole family, according to Delyth, who believes more needs to be done to support women's health in north Wales, and has called on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to provide more resource.

She said: "Betsi needs to come on board and give us what we need on our doorstep. All it will cost is for that consultant to either get in a car, get on a train, and come to sit in Ysbyty Gwynedd maybe once, twice a month, a week, whatever they can stretch to."

A spokesperson for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board confirmed there were three gynecology consultants across three hospitals with a specialist clinic in Deeside and Wrexham Maelor Hospital, to provide specialist menopause advice to patients across north Wales with more complex needs.

They said: "Our menopause specialists often hold virtual consultations to avoid the need for patients to travel as we appreciate that traveling to face-to-face consultations can involve a significant journey from some parts of north Wales, and this has been appreciated by the women and their families.

"Our women's services are now taking a number of actions, led by our menopause experts, in order to maintain and expand the service moving forward. These include training medical and nursing colleagues, in primary and secondary care, and educating women's services staff and allied health professionals through webinars and teaching sessions."

They added the service was also exploring the implementation of a pilot program of virtual sessions with doctors' families to review their cases and provide specialist input and advice without the need to refer a patient to secondary care.

However, they also added that funding remains a "significant challenge in the NHS" but they are "committed to ensuring" they provide "accessible, high quality menopause services across North Wales".

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Health boards are responsible for delivering services for women in their community.

"We recognise that there are improvements to be made in menopause and endometriosis care, treatment and support and greater consistency in those services is needed across Wales.

"We have recently appointed the first ever clinical lead for women’s health in Wales, Dr Helen Munro, to deliver improvements in these areas. She will lead on the delivery of a 10-year women’s health plan for Wales, which is due to be published by the end of this year.”

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