This week in the Scottish Parliament, during Health and Social Care Portfolio Questions, SNP MSP Ruth Maguire asked the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that women, who need it, have access to specialist services for advice and support on the diagnosis and management of menopause.

Marie Todd, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport responded on behalf of the Scottish Government. Watch the exchange here:

The Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport (Maree Todd):

We are determined to ensure that women are able to access the care and support that they need for menopause, whether through primary or specialist care. There is now a specialist menopause service in every mainland national health service board and support in place for the island health boards. A menopause specialists network meets regularly to provide consistent advice and peer support to health care professionals, including primary care teams.

We know that many women will seek support from their local general practice for their menopause symptoms. To support primary care, NHS Education for Scotland is developing menopause training for healthcare professionals, including practice nurses and GPs. Support for women who are experiencing the menopause will continue to be a priority for the women’s health plan as it is implemented.

Ruth Maguire

“I thank the minister for that action.

Hormone replacement therapy is part of the jigsaw of menopause management. For many women, it provides invaluable relief from the quite debilitating symptoms of menopause. Those women will be concerned about reported shortages of HRT supplies. Can I ask the minister what that situation is in Scotland? Further to that, would she consider enabling pharmacists to prescribe HRT, so that, where there are shortages, women can be advised on and provided with an alternative at the time, rather than having to return to their GP?”

Maree Todd

“Community pharmacists in Scotland are able to make appropriate generic or branded substitutions by endorsing for a change of strength or quantity if alternative products are available. Pharmacists who are independent prescribers can prescribe items within their clinical competency. We are committed to expanding the number of community pharmacists who undertake independent prescribing qualifications, and we have invested in a programme to support that.

In addition, serious shortage protocols—SSPs—which apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, are used for serious shortages when medicines are likely to be unavailable for some time. Three SSPs were introduced across the UK on 29 April 2022. In accordance with the SSP, community pharmacists can limit the supply to three months for eligible patients, to help conserve stock and ensure that as many patients as possible are able to have access to their prescribed medicine”.