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Ministers for Health welcome significant advances in Women’s Health services as they launch Women’s Health Week.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD; Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Hildegarde Naughton TD and Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler TD have highlighted the significant advancements in Women’s Health provision as they launch the second annual Women’s Health Week.

This week also marks one year from the launch of the Women’s Health Action Plan 2022-2023 - a fully-funded strategy for improving women’s health in Ireland.

In that time, there have been significant developments in the provision of care for women across all life stages, including the roll-out of a free contraception scheme for women aged 17-26, the establishment of Regional Fertility Hubs, significant investment in the National Maternity Strategy, investment in two supra-regional endometriosis specialist centres for complex care and five interdisciplinary teams to support the holistic treatment of endometriosis in each of the maternity networks, as well as Specialist Menopause Clinics.

The Department of Health also launched the first ever national Menopause Awareness Week and a dedicated website in order to improve knowledge, awareness and supports so that women can proactively manage their experience of menopause.

With a focus on improving women’s health through prevention and early intervention, increased investment has provided additional primary care supports, improved access to mental health supports and initiatives to improve uptake of screening services.

Minister Donnelly said: 

“It is incredible to reflect on all the milestones we have reached in just one year, proving that the long-overdue revolution of women’s healthcare in Ireland is well underway.

I have made it a priority as Minister for Health to listen to women and respond to their requests for improved services at all levels, and equality of access to those services.

“We’re working to ensure that women all over the country get the care they need at the time they need it and I’ve had the opportunity to meet with patients who are already benefitting from these improvements.

“However, we have much more to do and throughout Women’s Health Week we’ll be announcing further developments that will ultimately transform women’s healthcare experience in Ireland.”

Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drug Strategy Hildegarde Naughton said: 

“The Women’s Health Action Plan 2022-2023 is a landmark in policy making – putting women at the heart of the policy-making process. It enables us to offer better and more timely care to women with tailored services across all age groups, increasing opportunities for women to become partners in their own healthcare.

“Women should never feel as if their gender is a burden and we’re helping to address gender health inequalities through numerous initiatives, such as the period poverty programme and free contraception scheme.

“We’re also working to promote a proactive approach to health by improving uptake of screening services, particularly among marginalised groups.”

 Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said: 

“In the past year, the Women’s Health Fund has invested €1.9m to accelerate the development of a range of mental health services, including perinatal mental health supports, specialists eating disorder supports, and targeted mental health supports for vulnerable people including women in addiction and marginalised women.

“Women account for half our population so their needs must be reflected and addressed in the way we approach all our healthcare services. I’m looking forward to sharing details of progressive initiatives in the coming days that will further enhance the provision of mental health services for women in Ireland.”

Chief Nursing Officer, Department of Health Women’s Health Champion and Co-Chair of the Women’s Health Taskforce Rachel Kenna, said:

“Since the publication of the Women's Health Action Plan 2022-2023, we have seen great momentum in the developments for women’s healthcare provision, with rapid expansion and first-of-their-kind services delivered in year. 

“From contraception to menopause, we are delivering new supports and services that are making a measurable difference to the lives of women in Ireland.

“The Department of Health, Women's Health Taskforce, HSE and key partners will continue to drive women's health forward, with fresh focus on research, access and information - giving Women's Health the investment and focused attention it deserves."



Notes to editor:

Launched in March 2022, the Women's Health Action Plan 2022-2023 was developed by the Department of Health in partnership with the HSE, the National Women and Infants Health Programme, the European Institute for Women’s Health, the Irish College of General Practitioners, and the National Women’s Council of Ireland through the work of the Women’s Health Taskforce. The Women’s Health Fund (€10 million) was established as part of the Women’s Health Action Plan 2022-2023 to fund new initiatives and investments.

Health improvement highlights:

  • Contraception – The free contraception scheme for women aged 17 to 25 was introduced in September 2022 and has since been extended to women aged 26. It will further be expanded to include women aged 30 and under by September 2023.
  • Ambulatory Gynaecology Clinics – We are increasing capacity and reducing waiting times for women through the establishment of a network of one-stop “see and treat” ambulatory gynaecology clinics around the country. 12 of the 20 planned clinics are currently operational, with the remainder in development.
  • Endometriosis – We are establishing two supra-regional complex endometriosis services in Tallaght and Cork. These complex services will be supported by a network of regional endometriosis hub services, which are being developed, and that will co-ordinate care within their respective Hospital Groups. 
  • Menopause: 5 specialist menopause clinics are now in operation (National Maternity Hospital, Nenagh General Hospital, the Rotunda Hospital, University Hospital Galway and the Coombe Hospital), with a 6th to open in Cork University Maternity Hospital this year. The 6 clinics, one in each maternity network, will treat women who require complex, specialist care. The majority of women in peri-menopause and menopause can be treated in the community and in support of this, a GP Quick Reference Guide on Menopause was launched in 2022. 
  • Menopause Awareness Campaign – the first national Menopause Awareness Campaign ran in 2022, while the Department of Health also launched, a one-stop shop for information about menopause and its symptoms as well as advice on proactive management. 
  • Maternity – €8.66 million was allocated to the National Maternity Strategy in 2022, providing for further development of community midwifery services, expansion of breastfeeding supports, improved access to allied and specialised services and strengthened training and education supports for staff. This investment is also improving the infrastructure of our maternity services by providing additional home-from-home birthing suites and upgrades to theatres and wards.
  • Fertility - Regional Fertility Hubs are being established in each of the six maternity networks in order to provide tailored, low-level intervention for patients with fertility issues. €11.7 million has been made available both for the development of the first National Advanced AHR Centre, delivering IVF and ICSI through a wholly public clinic scheduled to open in 2024, and for, as an interim measure, supporting patients to access private AHR treatment.
  • Mental Health – In 2022, the Women’s Health Fund invested €1.9 million to accelerate the development of a range of services to support women and girls. These included increasing digital mental health services access, improving perinatal mental health supports, enhancing specialist eating disorder supports, providing targeted mental health supports for marginalised women and women in addiction and responding to the needs of young girls at risk of developing psychosis.
  • HPV – Roll-out of the Laura Brennan HPV Vaccination Catch-Up Programme to provide the HPV vaccine to those who did not get the vaccine in school.