The Transformation Imperative for UK Health and Care Delivery: A Movement Towards Gender Equity

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3 minutes
Written by
Kate Walsh

NHS England have announced the appointment of Sue Mann as the first National Clinical Director for Women's Health. Dr. Mann will be at the forefront of executing the new Women's Health Strategy while also playing a key role in the introduction of women's health hubs throughout England.

This is an exciting and important appointment as system-wide transformation is needed to address the gender bias pervading health and care delivery in the UK. Despite a greater focus on patient-centered approaches, women are often failed due to ingrained gender biases.

Meeting female health needs and eradicating gender inequality are central to society’s moral underpinnings. Women represent 70% of the global health workforce and carry out 76% of unpaid care work (International Labour Office, 2018). Yet systemic weaknesses in care pathways means higher morbidity rates for women often go unmentioned (Crimmins et al., 2019).

Consequences of this in the UK include:

  • Females being three times less likely to receive an accurate ADHD diagnosis than their male counterparts in the UK (Zalsman et al., 2016)
  • Women with dementia receiving significantly worse treatment than men (Cooper et al., 2017)
  • Female healthcare workers experiencing greater depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder than their male counterparts during the COVID-19 pandemic (Morgan et al., 2022)

Evidence highlights how proactive health systems, driven by gender-conscious interventions, promote gender equity (Heymann et al., 2019) and positively impact clinical quality and efficiency. For instance, the US’ significant reduction in cardiovascular mortality over the last decade is greatly due to an increased focus on women’s unmet needs (Mehta et al., 2016).

In 2021, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched an investigation to inform a seminal Women’s Health Strategy. However, since its initiation, little change has been observed.

To create the necessary conditions for change and address the inherent challenges for women’s health, three key recommendations have been identified:

  1. Appoint female leaders. Gender diversity drives greater representation across the sector (Stanford, 2020), with more women in influential positions increasing advocation for female health concerns. This would accelerate transformation by increasing specialist services to treat female-specific conditions, as recommended by the DHSC (2021).
  2. Expand and disseminate research into women’s health. As highlighted by the DHSC (see Figure 1), there is an impending need for research into UK women’s health to improve outcomes.
  3. Implement a programme of education about the issues and risks. This should include, for example, increasing awareness of physical risks to women’s health. Looking at the healthcare profession, nurses are three times more likely to be victims of violence than other professional groups . With 89% of UK nurses identifying as female (Buchan et al., 2018), it is imperative that women can perform their professional duties assault-free in the pursuit of human rights and healthcare provisions for all demographics.

Figure 1. UK women without access to sufficient female health information (DHSC, 2022).

Transforming UK health and care delivery to address gender disparities is a moral obligation and essential for improving health outcomes and achieving health equity. Through appointing female leaders, prioritising research and expanding education initiatives, we can start to address the gender-bias and improve the health and wellbeing of women in the UK.


  • Buchan, J. and Seccombe, I., 2018. Nurses work: an analysis of the UK nursing labour market. Routledge.
  • Cooper, C., Lodwick, R., Walters, K., Raine, R., Manthorpe, J., Iliffe, S. and Petersen, I., 2017. Inequalities in receipt of mental and physical healthcare in people with dementia in the UK. Age and Ageing, 46(3), pp.393-400.
  • Crimmins, E.M., Shim, H., Zhang, Y.S. and Kim, J.K., 2019. Differences between men and women in mortality and the health dimensions of the morbidity process. Clinical Chemistry, 65(1), pp.135-145.
  • Department for Health and Social Care, 2022. Results of The ‘Women’s Health – Let’s Talk About It’ Survey. Available at:
  • Heymann, J., Levy, J.K., Bose, B., Ríos-Salas, V., Mekonen, Y., Swaminathan, H., Omidakhsh, N., Gadoth, A., Huh, K., Greene, M.E. and Darmstadt, G.L., 2019. Improving health with programmatic, legal, and policy approaches to reduce gender inequality and change restrictive gender norms. The Lancet, 393(10190), pp.2522-2534.  
  • International Labour Organization. (2018). Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work. International Labour Organization.
  • Maniatopoulos, G., Hunter, D.J., Erskine, J. and Hudson, B., 2020. Large-scale health system transformation in the United Kingdom: Implementing the new care models in the NHS. Journal of Health Organization and Management, 34(3), pp.325-344.
  • Mehta, L.S., Beckie, T.M., DeVon, H.A., Grines, C.L., Krumholz, H.M., Johnson, M.N., Lindley, K.J., Vaccarino, V., Wang, T.Y., Watson, K.E. and Wenger, N.K., 2016. Acute myocardial infarction in women: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 133(9), pp.916-947.
  • Morgan, R., Tan, H.L., Oveisi, N., Memmott, C., Korzuchowski, A., Hawkins, K. and Smith, J., 2022. Women healthcare workers’ experiences during COVID-19 and other crises: A scoping review. International Journal of Nursing Studies Advances, 4, p.100066.
  • Sen G, Govender V, El-Gamal S. Universal health coverage, gender equality and social protection: a health systems approach. 2018
  • Stanford, F.C., 2020. The importance of diversity and inclusion in the healthcare workforce. Journal of the National Medical Association, 112(3), pp.247-249.
  • Zalsman, G., & Shilton, T. (2016). Adult ADHD: a new disease?. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 20(2), pp.70-76.

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