New community-backed report offers cross-system approach to overcome access and inequalities in women’s reproductive healthcare

  • The new policy report explores the realities of women’s and reproductive healthcare provision across key stages of the life course 
  • Recommendations are set out to tackle persistent challenges and inequalities in women’s access to sexual health education, contraceptive services, and support on menopause
  • The report calls for a woman-centred, integrated approach that builds upon the Governments’ Women’s Health Strategy1-3 to achieve higher quality, more accessible and more consistent reproductive care for women across the UK 

Today, a new policy report, initiated and funded by Bayer, that explores the realities of women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare provision in the UK was launched during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health (APPG on SRH), run by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), under the theme of ‘The Women’s Health Strategy: One Year On’


Developed by Bayer, the report “Informed, heard, empowered: Placing women at the heart of reproductive health policy” uncovers the systemic barriers and challenges faced by women when accessing reproductive healthcare services at every key stage of the life course – that is Teenage years, Reproductive years and Menopause and beyond. It emphasises on the opportunity to build upon the foundations of the Government’s Women’s Health Strategy to deliver tangible actions that help transform reproductive healthcare provision. 


A woman’s reproductive years could last for nearly 40 years, however, in England, only 6% of women say they learn about intimate health through school or university education.4 Despite welcome national prioritisation of women’s health, reproductive healthcare continues to fall through the cracks after severe disruption during the pandemic. Insights drawn from recently published Sexual and Reproductive Health Activity Data (SRHAD) reveal that in 2021-2022 the number of specialist clinics offering long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)* fell from more than 850 in 2015 to fewer than 400, representing a decrease of over 50%.5 Fragmented commissioning arrangements have led to over a third (34%) of GP practices only being funded to provide LARC for contraceptive purposes and not for other gynaecological conditions like heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB).6 A severe postcode lottery creates vast inequalities in access to LARC – in some areas uptake exceeds 85 per 1,000 women, while in other areas the same rate falls below 5 per 1,000 women.7 These challenges are also mirrored later in the life course – according to the British Menopause Society, only 62 of 54,024 GPs in England and Scotland are recognised menopause specialists.8


Dame Diana Johnson DBE MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health, who hosted the AGM today, said: “We are now one year on from the publication of the Women’s Health Strategy, and I am pleased to see the recent progress that has been made in this area – from the telemedicine pathway for early medical abortion being made permanent, to the appointment of a Women’s Health Ambassador to provide much-needed leadership and plans around the establishment of Women’s Health Hubs. We know there is still much work to be done, as we have heard at today’s AGM of the many challenges that lie ahead, including budget cuts, fragmented commissioning, and workforce issues that continue to negatively affect women’s ability to access reproductive health services.”


“In this context and particularly given the need for dedicated national policy leadership on access to contraception, I am pleased to welcome Bayer’s policy report setting out recommendations to enhance provision of reproductive healthcare at critical stages of the life course. I look forward to leading the APPG’s work, which focused towards protecting and promoting SRH rights in Parliament, and supporting that of the partners working in this sector, to ensure that all women have full control their reproductive lives,” she added. 


The Bayer report capitalises on the opportunity of the Women’s Health Strategy and integrated care agenda and outlines practical actions that cover the key stages of a woman’s life. Geared towards ensuring women – of all ages and backgrounds – are informed about their options, feel their voices is heard by the healthcare services, and are empowered to make decisions about their reproductive health, the report proposes to:

  • enhance relationships and sex education (RSE) curriculum in school that embeds vulval anatomy and vaginal health as a core aspect of physical and intimate health education
  • reverse a decade of fragmentation and growing inequality in access to contraceptive services through removing barriers to collaborative commission and workforce expansion, including replication of the Women’s Health Hub model to streamline and enhance access to LARC across contraceptive and gynaecological needs, introducing the Fair Fees for Fitting to set a national fee for LARC
  • adopt a whole-system approach where all women go through menopause and beyond are supported in family life and the workplace with appropriately trained healthcare professionals and employers


*Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods are widely accepted to be some of the most effective and cost-effective contraceptive methods available and include intrauterine system (IUS)/intrauterine device (IUD), progesterone-only subdermal implants, and progesterone-only injectable contraceptives. IUS methods are not only effective in preventing unplanned pregnancy but are also the first-line recommended treatment for HMB.

Writing a foreword in the report, Dr Janet Barter, President of the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), commented: “Women and girls consistently face inequalities in their reproductive health outcomes, as well as in their access to services. Contraception, abortion, menstrual healthcare, and other areas of women’s health are neglected within the health system. As Bayer’s report sets out - provision is fragmented and disjointed across different providers, resulting in huge challenges in the delivery of reproductive healthcare.”


“I am pleased that FSRH has recently launched the FSRH Hatfield Vision Taskforce, a significant step to harness organisational expertise from across the SRH sector to drive forward the goals and actions of the Hatfield Vision.” 


“FSRH welcomes Bayer’s report and wider commitment from partners including the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare to improve outcomes for women.

I hope this report supports with furthering the discussion around the action needed on reproductive healthcare and helps to support the delivery of the FSRH Hatfield Vision’s 2030 goal to significantly improve reproductive health inequalities,” she added. 


“We are very pleased to launch our new policy report today and share with partner organisations and politicians our ambition to help plug existing gaps in the Government’s agenda to deliver a holistic approach to women’s health,” said Marion McPherson, Global Therapy Area Head of Women’s Healthcare, Bayer. “We are eager to see the Government build on its launch of the Women’s Health Strategy and are committed to using our expertise to continue to partner across the system and translate Government commitments into concrete and long-term action that will allow women to achieve optimal reproductive health at every stage of their lives.”

Driving change in reproductive health requires collaboration between the government, healthcare providers, healthcare businesses, community partners and beyond. The report recognises the critical role of partnership and joint working, the principles that underpins the cross-system approach, such as the Women’s Health Hub model, to unlock existing commissioning barriers, as well as advancing education and awareness on women’s reproductive health. 


To read the full Informed, heard, empowered: Placing women at the heart of reproductive health policy report, click here.


Bayer Media Contact:

Veronica Yao, +44 (0)7870 485926



Notes to Editors


About the report

In the year since the launch of the Women’s Health Strategy in England in July 2022, commendable work has already been conducted to drive implementation. In March 2023, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced £25 million fund to support the expansion of the Women’s Health Hub model across England.9 This presents a clear opportunity to secure holistic provision of healthcare for women, bringing essential services together to support women maintain good health and ensure they can easily access the care they need at the right time and in the right place.


Effectively seizing – and building on – the foundations set by the Women’s Health Strategy will require a collaborative approach that utilises expertise and insight from all parts of the system. Like many across the sector, Bayer welcomes the Strategy’s ambitious vision to improve women’s experiences of care, and health outcomes, across the range of the health needs throughout the life course and are eager to support the delivery and implementation of the goals. As a first step, Bayer has developed this report that sets out a woman-centred approach in supporting women to achieve optimal reproductive health, from teenage years to menopause and beyond. While this is not an exhaustive approach covering every element of women’s reproductive needs, it is informed by Bayer’s heritage and key areas of expertise in women’s health.


The life course at a glance: key statistics from the report

  • 40% of pupils rate quality of relationships and sex education (RSE) as ‘good’ or ’very good’10
  • 6% of women say they learn about intimate health through school or university education4
  • Fewer than half of the specialist clinics offering long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) in 2015-16 were still doing so in 2021-2235
  • 34% of GP practices are only funded to provide LARC for contraceptive purposes, reducing women’s access to highly effective treatments for heavy menstrual bleeding6
  • Prescribed LARC rates (excluding injection) vary from below 5 to over 85 per 1,000 women7
  • 10% of women who worked during the menopause have left a job due to their symptoms11
  • Only 62 of 54,024 GPs in England and Scotland are recognised menopause specialists8; 52% of GPs say they are not offered enough support to advise and treat women with menopausal symptoms8


Key recommendations from the report across the life course

  • All pupils should receive high-quality, evidence-based education on vulval anatomy and vaginal health through the national RSE curriculum, with full support for teachers to ensure they have the knowledge, confidence, and tools to deliver effective intimate health education.
  • The Women’s Health Strategy’s commitment to set out plans for sexual and reproductive health – including “a focus on increasing access and choice for all women who want contraception” – must be acted upon by DHSC, in particular addressing currently fragmented commissioning of sexual health. This should closely align with work to safeguard LARC financial viability.
  • The Government should set a nationally-determined, minimum viable fee for LARC, across gynaecological and contraceptive purposes. The fee should be set nationally, but allow local flexibility in use, whether for training or supporting local services. Bayer recognises this undertaking will require input from a range of stakeholders and has recently formed a strategy group to move forward efforts in shaping the future of sustainable primary care LARC provision.
  • All women must be able to access proactive and personalised menopause support in primary care, with digital options made available wherever preferred and clinically appropriate to support providers in managing demand. Menopause support should form a key service of Women’s Health Hubs, with the increasing role of community pharmacy in ·       women’s health leveraged to provide an additional source of support and signposting across the wider system


About Women’s Healthcare at Bayer

Bayer is a recognised leader in the area of women’s healthcare, with a long-standing commitment to delivering science for a better life by advancing a portfolio of innovative treatments. Bayer offers a wide range of effective short- and long-acting contraception methods as well as therapies for menopause management and gynecological conditions. Today, Bayer’s research efforts focus on finding new treatment options for gynecological conditions with a high medical need and includes several investigational compounds in various stages of pre-clinical and clinical development. Together, these projects reflect the company’s approach to research, which prioritises targets and pathways with the potential to alter the way that gynecological conditions are treated. Additionally, Bayer intends to provide 100 million women in low-and-middle income countries by 2030 with access to family planning by funding multi-stakeholder aid programmes and by ensuring the supply of affordable modern contraceptives. This is part of the comprehensive sustainability measures and commitments from 2020 onwards and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. 


About Bayer

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields of health care and nutrition. Its products and services are designed to help people and the planet thrive by supporting efforts to master the major challenges presented by a growing and aging global population. Bayer is committed to driving sustainable development and generating a positive impact with its businesses. At the same time, the Group aims to increase its earning power and create value through innovation and growth. The Bayer brand stands for trust, reliability, and quality throughout the world. In fiscal 2022, the Group employed around 101,000 people and had sales of 50.7 billion euros. R&D expenses before special items amounted to 6.2 billion euros. For more information, go to


Forward-Looking Statements 

This release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Bayer management. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Bayer’s public reports which are available on the Bayer website at The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.



  1. Department of Health and Social Care, Women’s Health Strategy for England, August 2022
  2. Scottish Government, Women’s Health Plan: A plan for 2021-2024, August 2021 
  3. Welsh Government, The Quality Statement for women and girls’ health, July 2022
  4. 1,600 women, WIH Path to Purchase study, 2019 ‘Different Is Normal’ research by Canesten and sexual health charity Brook, Survey of 1,000 UK women (aged 18-24)
  5. NHS Digital, Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, England (Contraception) 2015/16 and 2021/22, accessed June 2023
  6. Primary Care Women’s Health Forum, LARC Fitter Survey Results, June 2020
  7. Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Sexual and Reproductive Health Profiles: Total prescribed LARC excluding injections rate / 1,000, accessed June 2023
  8. Dintakurti N et al, An online survey and interview of GPs in the UK for assessing their satisfaction regarding the medical training curriculum and NICE guidelines for the management of menopause. 2022. Post Reprod Health; 28(3):137-141.
  9. Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, £25 million for women’s health hub expansion, March 2023
  10. Sex Education Forum, Young People’s RSE Poll 2022, March 2023
  11. Fawcett Society, Menopause and the workplace, April 2022



RP-UN-WHC-GB-0112 / July 2023