VITAL SIGNS

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PROTECT YOUR HEART

Researchers found that women in the UK had more than double the rate of death in the 30 days following their heart attack than men. Heart disease and heart attacks are still seen as conditions which only affect males however they can affect everybody. One issue which can delay treatment is recognising a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms in women include:

  • Central chest pain

  • Pain which spreads to either or both arms

  • Pain in the back, between the shoulders or neck

  • Nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness and feeling sweaty.

  • Fatigue which is new and unexplained


However women are more likely to delay seeking treatment, even with symptoms. It is important to get treatment as soon as possible. If you think you're having a heart attack, call 999 for an ambulance immediately. 

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KNOW YOURSELF

Almost half of British women were unable to label their vagina in a study which found that 45% of respondents couldn’t identify the key parts of their reproductive and genital anatomy. Not being able to name parts of your body properly can make it harder to understand what is happening in your body and more difficult for health professionals to diagnose illnesses. This can lead to delays in treatment. 

Take some time to look at your body and learn the names of the different parts of it. You don’t have to be an expert, but even learning the basics will help you feel more confident talking about your body.


This website has a range of simple diagrams to help you start learning:

https://teachmeanatomy.info/pelvis/female-reproductive-tract/ 


Some people struggle to get to know their bodies because they are embarrassed or shy. Anxiety about their bodies can mean that people avoid going to their doctor with concerns, however this can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment, which can lead to poorer health outcomes. 


Remember that:


  • All bodies are different, your own body parts are unlikely to look like pictures shown in the media which tend to only show one type of body. 

  • Doctors and Health Professionals are used to seeing all types of bodies and body parts, they are there to assess your health, not judge your body.

  • You are entitled to have someone with you in an appointment or assessment. This is called a chaperone, it could be a friend, family member or partner. 

  • You are entitled to request a healthcare professional of your preferred gender

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GET WHAT YOU NEED

Whatever your gender or sex, You have a right to access to healthcare in the United Kingdom under the NHS constitution. Women often wait longer for a diagnosis than men, which means a delay in accessing the treatment they need. There is an even further delay for black and ethnic minority groups in accessing treatment, with research showing that black patients are 22% less likely to receive pain medication than white patients reporting the same symptoms. Trans people also often have delays in diagnosis and treatment for a number of reasons including poor experiences with healthcare providers which deter trans people from accessing medical treatment and support when they need it. This can lead to poor mental and physical health outcomes.

The NHS has a constitution which lays out your rights as a patient;

  • You have the right to receive NHS services free of charge, apart from certain limited exceptions sanctioned by Parliament.

  • You have the right to access NHS services. You will not be refused access on unreasonable grounds.

  • You have the right to receive care and treatment that is appropriate to you, meets your needs and reflects your preferences.

If you feel that you are not receiving the treatment or access to services that you require (such as referrals, medication or further investigations) it is important to raise this with your GP practice. You can read more about the NHS constitution here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-nhs-constitution-for-england/the-nhs-constitution-for-england#patients-and-the-public-your-rights-and-the-nhs-pledges-to-you