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Young women struggling to access the healthcare they need

Publication: Greater Govanhill

The Status of Young Women in Scotland Report 2022-2023 provides much-needed research on issues affecting women and people of marginalised genders in the healthcare system. It shows the barriers that people from ethnic minority backgrounds and those with long term conditions face.

A new report on The Status of Young Women in Scotland 2022-2023 produced by the Young Women’s Movement revealed that women struggle to access healthcare, and 17 per cent felt that their experiences were primarily negative. 

The report included the experiences of 900 young women and people of marginalised genders, with participants from every Scottish local authority. Young women felt that booking appointments was one of the biggest challenges to accessing healthcare. This was partly due to appointments being much scarcer and women feeling that reception staff were like gatekeepers to healthcare. They also felt that they were being “dismissed and minimised by healthcare professionals”. 

The study heard from young women who are working, in education, as well as those who have care responsibilities or long-term mental health conditions which impact their mornings and ability to communicate on the phone due to language barriers. 

Nine per cent of women from ethnic minority backgrounds reported that they felt their ethnicity had an impact on their experiences. This reflects separate research, which shows that Black, Asian and minority ethnic women have reported negative interactions with healthcare professionals at a higher rate than white women. One of the participants explained, “They [healthcare professionals] assume you can’t speak English, and it sounds so bizarre, but they assume you’re stupid if your English isn’t good and that you don’t know anything.”

The Govanhill census from 2022 reports that Pakistani people make up the second-highest ethnic group in Govanhill, making it the most ethnically diverse neighbourhood in Glasgow. A significant proportion also identify as Roma and other ethnic minority groups. This could also mean that a large number of women from Govanhill are having disproportionately negative experiences when accessing healthcare services. A combination of language barriers and facing discriminative treatment could be a cause of this. The conversations we have had with community groups as part of our Mind the Health Gap project, reporting on solutions to health inequalities backs this up anecdotally.

Women with long-term health conditions were reported to have some of the worst experiences in accessing healthcare with 49 per cent rating their experience negatively. Their circumstances were not considered due to the nature of treatments being viewed as adaptable for all patients. Sixty-five per cent of disabled respondents felt that their ability to access health was related to their disability. 

One of the survey respondents said they felt that: “Medical professionals have infantilised me due to my disability, I have been spoken down to and treated like I am stupid by people in the medical field when trying to access healthcare and often my partner who is non-disabled and a cis man has to step in to advocate for me in these situations as he will be listened to more than I will even though it is my healthcare that is being discussed.” 

The Young Women’s Movement urges policymakers, healthcare practitioners, and institutions in positions of power to read the report and utilise it to implement change. Some of these include:

  • Alternative access to healthcare, through e-consultation, online registration and the option to book appointments online, is becoming more widespread and standardised across Scotland.
  • Improved management of waiting lists that ensures those who require more urgent care are prioritised by date about their position on waiting lists for referrals
  • Creating changes to the attitudes and culture of healthcare professionals to prevent women from experiencing misogyny and gaslighting
  • Improving education for medical professionals, particularly relating to sexual and menstrual health as well as understanding how to operate intersectionally and how to dismantle racism and ableism
  • Systemic change, including better pay for healthcare professionals and more women and people with marginalised genders, making policy changes  

Speaking about the report, Rhianna Mallia, Research and Policy Lead at The Young Women’s Movement, said: “So many young women we engaged with had a story about being dismissed in a healthcare setting, where they had come away from an interaction with a healthcare professional feeling like they had not been heard. This results in young women pushing and pushing to access the healthcare they need and deserve, a responsibility which should not lie upon them. 

“Young women want to be heard, seen, listened to and validated. They want healthcare professionals to take them seriously. They no longer want to experience medical misogyny or gaslighting in healthcare settings. Young women and people of marginalised genders must feel safe accessing timely care. Especially in relation to abortion and reproductive services, gender-affirming healthcare and mental health support.” 

You can access the full report online on The Young in Women Scotland’s website.

Mind the Health Gap is a year-long collaboration between Greater Govanhill and The Ferret exploring the solutions to health inequalities. This project was funded by the European Journalism Centre through the Solutions Journalism Accelerator. This fund is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Read more here.

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