What planet is Amanda Pritchard on? writing on it daily telegraph, the head of the health service in England has outlined new guidance on menopause that could see up to 260,000 female staff working from home or taking on lighter duties. NHS workers who are “suffering in silence” should not be expected to “smile and bear it,” said Ms Pritchard.
Wait a minute. Can you think of any other groups closely associated with the NHS who are “suffering in silence” and should not be expected to “smile and bear it”? A group that England’s NHS chief executive could reasonably be expected to focus her attention on? Perhaps Mrs. Pritchard momentarily forgot the 7.1 million patients on the waiting list. That almost unfathomable number of men, women and children sadly have no choice but to smile and endure as they struggle to have surgery to restore a quality of life that Ms. Pritchard considers a basic right of her own workforce.
I was furious when I saw the headline on the front page: “NHS menopausal staff can work from home.” Perhaps I was so angry that, almost daily, I hear horrifying stories of readers who cannot work, or sometimes even walk, because it is impossible to access a public service that gobbles up £150bn of our taxes each year. Then he burps and asks for more.
As Hannah emailed me on Wednesday to tell me that her two-year-old son is having trouble breathing and swallowing food, but is only offered a telephone appointment in the near future with an otolaryngologist (estimated wait for tonsillectomy: 2.5 years), the NHS boss gushed enthusiastically about ventilators and cooler uniforms for workers experiencing hot flashes.
Honestly, what sublime obliviousness to her own clients’ pain and anguish could have prompted Ms. Pritchard to suddenly bring this issue up? And at a time when the NHS is in the grip of a staffing crisis. Only in the group of Registered Nursing personnel, the June figures showed that there was a vacancy rate 11.8 percent, or 46,828. We know maternity units are often dangerously understaffed with terrible consequences for babies and mothers. Now is not the time to tell a quarter of a million of your workers that they can work fewer hours or not come at all.
Do not misunderstand. I am a devoted supporter of that heroically multitasking but vastly underappreciated creature, the middle-aged woman. My 2017 novel, How hard can it beit was the first work of fiction to feature a heroine dealing very explicitly with the difficulties of menopause while struggling to remain relevant in the workplace.
What my grandmother called “The Change” comes with an extensive menu of middle-aged mortifications. In addition to the infamous hot flashes, Mister Google lists irregular periods, heavier periods, flooding, irritability, trouble sleeping (with or without night sweats), roaring fatigue, and loss of libido, all of which possibly have something to do with your — yikes. , joy! – dry vagina. He may also experience “disturbing memory lapses.” Basically, you become like the fish that forgets what it knows every 10 seconds in that Pixar movie*. As it is called? The name will come back to you. I promise you it will come back, but not when you need it. It can take hours, or even days. When you’re in menopause, the tip of your tongue becomes a very crowded place.
I would love for my novel to help break a taboo that used to make women feel ashamed and alone. So why did Mrs. Pritchard’s ad bother me? Because it came in a week that saw terrible headlines about a record rise in cancer deaths (due to much of the NHS being shamefully closed to non-Covid patients during the lockdown). Because they told us that the long waits for ambulances and operations could last “years and years.” Because one in five NHS trusts have just been given a ‘red’ baby death rating.
Because England’s NHS chief tried to divert attention from all that devastating news for patients (who pay her £255,000 salary) by writing good news for her menopausal staff. Because most of us think that little kids with enlarged tonsils who are struggling to breathe should be a higher priority for the health service than hot flashes for nurses. If Mrs. Pritchard doesn’t realize that, she should resign.
* Finding Dory – I told you I would come back, eventually.