Is this the most forward-thinking hospital in the UK?

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn is one of the country's first menopause-friendly employers

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn is one of the country's first menopause-friendly employers - Credit: Contributed

Take a look around at the women in your office or in your life. They may have children. They could have elderly parents, and be navigating the care system. And they could be going through menopause.  

Women being women, there’s likely to be little fuss. They’ll get on with their daily routine, all while potentially coping with symptoms from horrendous hot flushes, to crippling anxiety. 

Until recently, this natural part of a woman’s life cycle has been seen as something shameful. Something to be hidden away from family, friends and employers. But all this is changing. 

And one employer in the healthcare sector is seeking to be a leader in this change not just in our region, but across the UK, where it hopes to share its work and knowledge with all kinds of industries. 

Amanda-Jane Weir is leading the clarion call at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn (where 61% of employees are women) and beyond. 

The head of staff engagement and events has a bold vision for how menopause should be considered at work. And talks passionately about making a genuine and sustained difference to women’s lives. 

“We recognised,” she says, “that we have lots of women of menopausal age in our workforce, and if we don’t look after these ladies they will leave the organisation, taking their experience with them. We don’t want to lose their skills, so decided it was time to give recognition to this big, important factor in women’s lives.” 

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Initially this began with education and awareness, with training for managers in a bid to normalise conversations around ‘female issues’. “We spoke about it a lot. Some of our top team are females who spoke openly about their struggles with menopause. And we did a video for social media. But, with the best will in the world, we can say how great we are at this, but without policy to back it up it’s futile. So that was the next step.” 

A perimenopause and menopause policy was drawn up and passed through Unison, launching in August this year, much to Amanda’s delight. “We’d actually started a piece of work just before the pandemic hit in 2020. I was put in as head of staff engagement and part of my remit was the health and wellbeing of staff. The menopause was one of the first things I looked into and it started to be a bit of a mission for me – that we become regional leaders in this. 

Amanda-Jane Weir who is leading a menopause project at the QEH in King's Lynn

Amanda-Jane Weir who is leading a menopause project at the QEH in King's Lynn - Credit: Contributed

“We’ve now put in our job advertisements that we’re a menopause-friendly employer. I think we’re one of the first in the country to do that. Also we have menopause champions.  

“They’ll be advising from lived experience and from the courses run by Henpicked about awareness and support – from recognising symptoms to knowing where to refer ladies to. 

“Two of our nurses and one of our gyny consultants are undergoing training with the British Menopause Society and as from December we should have our own staff menopause clinic, with eight slots available per month, which is fantastic for those women who aren’t getting anywhere with their GP.” 

Amanda says there’s been a tide change in the organisation. “We’ve got strong female leaders who now, on Teams meetings, will say they have brain fog. It’s not frowned upon or laughed at. This has really opened the topic up and so many staff have come to us to say ‘thankyou for doing this, now I feel like I'm in a safe space’. 

“Also, at our launch event, a guy came up and chatted to me, saying he’d read all the information and that he’d clashed with his mu for three years. They  just did not get on, and looking back he realises she was going through the menopause. He wished he’d known at the time. So this is about educating not just the ladies, but people working alongside them too. Actually, one of our champions is a male. He’s the manager for the catering workforce where most of the staff are ladies. He just wanted to know how he could help, which I think is fantastic.” 

Policies in place include: 

Reasonable adjustments to the working day. 

Changes to uniforms, with staff able to request lighter fabrics and materials to aid with hot flushes. 

The ability to move to be near a window to work if necessary. 

Reviews around flexible working to help women cope. 

Access to a staff menopause clinic when it launches, and to menopause champions. 

Members of the QEH team - who are working to make the hospital one of the most menopause-friendly for staff in the country

Members of the QEH team - who are working to make the hospital one of the most menopause-friendly for staff in the country - Credit: Contributed

Meg Matthews, who has been a staunch menopause campaigner, is an ambassador of the project at the hospital and has been working with the team over the past year as they look at ways to spread the word to a wider audience firstly in East Anglia, and then further afield with Amanda adding: “Employers need to wake up to this. If they don’t they could lose valuable assets to their workforce.” 

How does Amanda feel about being at the forefront of this force for change? 

“This has been my baby from the beginning and we’re not stopping here! There’s still a lot of work to do and we want people to look to us as the leader. I’m happy to share our policy. The more people we can help the better.” 

More than 50% of the UK population are women, yet female issues often fly under the radar as ‘difficult’ or ‘embarrassing’ to talk about. This week we’re shining a spotlight on a topic that will affect every single one of our female readers – and the men in their lives. Menopause. With symptoms ranging from hot sweats, to crippling depression, anxiety, brain fog and weight gain, it’s one of the single most important changes to a woman’s wellbeing in mid and later life. Please read, share and talk. 

Where to get help 

Menopausesupport.co.uk 

Kate Pleace at the-wellness-cloud.com 

Thebms.org.uk 

Menopauseandme.co.uk 

Menopausedoctor.co.uk 

Themenopausecharity.org 

Thedaisynetwork.org 

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