Wednesday 21 February 2024
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NHS staff breaking down the taboo of menopause

Nottingham hospital staff who are going through menopause are being offered groundbreaking support at work including lightweight uniforms and changes to shift patterns.

Three-quarters of all the staff working for Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH), which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital, are female.

A project to give Trust staff more support and break down the taboo of menopause has been years in the making.

It follows the staff wellbeing team at NUH saying they were “inundated” with messages from colleagues who were struggling.

24 per cent of all staff working for NUH are women in the menopause age range.

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NUH was the first NHS Trust in the country to be awarded the Menopause Friendly Employer Accreditation in November 2021 and some other trusts have now followed.

As part of the accreditation, staff experiencing hot flushes can ask for light wear uniforms, changes to shift patterns, more time to complete tasks or access to fans in offices.

A document was also produced to give coping mechanisms to staff, advice for managers and guidance on speaking to the GP.

Awareness training is also being offered to staff and those struggling can also speak to gynaecologists and pelvic health physios for support.

Rachel Meadwell is a ward administrator at ward D57 at QMC.

She said: “I started symptoms about five years ago and I didn’t realise it was menopause.

“I started to get anxious and couldn’t sleep through the night.

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Rachel Meadwell

“It was really difficult to cope at work to start with because I didn’t know what was happening, it was pretty scary.

“Hearing about the support you can get has made that a lot easier at the time.

“There is a lot of taboo around menopause and lack of understanding so since we’ve had the accreditation I now realise it’s happening to a massive proportion of the workforce. It’s now an open conversation and that’s great.

“I’ve got a paper fan at all times to keep me cool but I’ve got an industrial fan in the office now.

“You feel supported now, you know you can contact your line manager or the wellbeing team.

“It’s also for those whose partners are going through menopause and they might be suffering at work because of lack of sleep.

“It will do great things for staff retention because you don’t feel like you’re on your own, you feel supported.

“It’s scary going into a workplace where you can’t bring something up.

“I’m in the latter stages of menopause now but it’s nice knowing there’s that support and if I can make one person in the trust feel more comfortable then that’s a job done.”

This year, the trust was a finalist in the Most Menopause Friendly Environment category in the first Menopause Friendly Employer Award scheme.

Jenny Good, NUH Staff Wellbeing Lead, said: “We strongly believe that menopause is an issue for everybody. Everyone knows somebody who will go through it.

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Jenny Good

“We wanted to equip everyone who works at NUH with an awareness of what menopause is.

“We’re really proud that we’re the first NHS trust to get the accreditation.”

She added that around four years ago, the team were “inundated with requests from members of staff who were struggling at work with menopause symptoms”.

She added: “We put a working group together and discussed how we could support staff.

“We got in contact with Henpicked who support organisations to be menopause friendly.

“We started with guidance documents for staff and managers, then created a menopause policy. Thankfully we’re hearing that staff are now feeling more supported.

“The conversation has opened up.”

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