Jenni Murray: Having a coil fitted was pure agony… it should never be left to your local chemist
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I am perfectly happy for my lovely local chemist, Hugh, to control the delivery of my regular prescription, advise me on the best painkillers to buy for my bad back and I would be quite content for him to take my blood pressure for a check-up.
But I would, under no circumstances, be prepared to ask the man who hands over my cough medicine to fit a contraceptive coil. Yet that most intimate of procedures is among the NHS proposals for shifting some of the responsibilities of GPs to pharmacists.
I have no doubt that we’re all keen on practical ideas that will make it easier for us to get immediate healthcare, given the trouble we’ve all been having trying to get an appointment with the GP. Pharmacists — or chemists, as I continue to call them — can help take the pressure off the doctors.
Already they’ve been given permission to hand out sick notes, and they are allowed to dispense progestogen-only contraceptive pills, give advice on other forms of contraception and next will come permission to carry out the annual check-up that’s needed if you’re on the Pill. But fitting a coil?
When I realised this was not the joke I’d immediately assumed it to be, I was horrified.
I have delivered two boys naturally with no pain relief apart from gas and air. The pain of childbirth was nothing compared to the insertion of that wretched coil
It is not, of course, a nightmare I would ever have to endure myself. At 72 and long post-menopausal, an unwanted pregnancy is unlikely in the extreme. But for a good many years it was vital to have easy access to safe, free contraception, and, in my mid-20s, a coil seemed like a good idea.
No more pills, no worries about forgetting to take them or a stomach upset (being sick can stop the Pill working) putting me in the danger zone. My GP agreed.
She was a woman who’d made it her business to become an expert in women’s health. I felt completely safe in her hands.
So, for those NHS managers who seem to have no idea of what fitting a coil, or IUD (intrauterine device) entails, here’s what happened to me. A side room at the GP’s surgery.
Pants off, lie on the bed. Legs wide open. ‘Try to relax,’ she said. ‘Hold my hand,’ urged the nurse standing at the head end. The doctor had the decency and forethought to warm the speculum used to create the path for the coil to be inserted into the uterus.
I would, under no circumstances, be prepared to ask the man who hands over my cough medicine to fit a contraceptive coil
I have delivered two boys naturally with no pain relief apart from gas and air. The pain of childbirth was nothing compared to the insertion of that wretched coil.
I clutched the hand of the nurse. I wasn’t sure why she was screaming almost as loudly as I was. It was only after the procedure was over that I realised I had gripped her hand so tightly my long nails had dug into her skin. We’d both been suffering.
I’m not the only woman to have endured such agony. Two years ago, the TV presenter Naga Munchetty talked about how hers was fitted. She called it the ‘most traumatic physical experience she had ever had’. She fainted twice and her screams brought her husband running, terrified of what was going on.
I remember discussing with the doctor at the time why I had not been given painkillers to help me through it. Yet decades later, it seems the medical profession still assumes women have a greater pain threshold than men.
Naga had no painkillers, either. Various young women — the feminist writer Caroline Criado Perez and the author Caitlin Moran — have campaigned for pain relief during these agonising times. Only six months ago, health chiefs warned that women should be given ‘appropriate analgesia’ such as a local anaesthetic spray used on the cervix to numb the area before the procedure.
It’s still not common practice, according to many of the women going through it now.
Surely the pharmacy is no place for something so private, painful and humiliating to happen.
I have no doubt that the offer of free contraceptives at the chemist, and advice about what Pill to take is a good idea. Chemists will apparently have our health records so they can judge which is best, and that, of course, is what they’re trained for — they understand medicines. But hands-on treatments such as IUDs? No.
Not least because chemists are already feeling the strain of insufficient government funding, as highlighted by the Mail’s ongoing Save Our Local Pharmacies campaign.
Earlier this year, LloydsPharmacy announced it’s closing all 237 of its outlets in Sainsbury’s supermarkets. As more demands are placed on them, will pharmacists really have the time and resources to do what is in effect a doctor’s job? I doubt it.
But there’s also a wider question to be asked here: why is it the health of women that’s been earmarked as something that can be shunted out of the surgery to ease the workload of the GP? Is there an element here of something I’ve mentioned before?
In my grandmother’s day, before the NHS was founded, it was rare for a woman to see her doctor. The cost of healthcare was saved up for the man — the breadwinner — who could not be allowed to be sick.
Does an assumption that women don’t really need to be a priority still determine plans when it comes to saving an ill-performing health service? Are we still second-class citizens, denied the right to see our doctors regularly at important stages in our lives?
I sincerely hope not.
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re past your prime
So good to see two women in their 60s clutching their Oscars and saying: ‘Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you you are past your prime.’ Evergreen talent: Michelle and Jamie at the Oscars
So good to see two women in their 60s clutching their Oscars and saying: ‘Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you you are past your prime.’
That from Michelle Yeoh — Best Actress at 60. And from the Best Supporting Actress, Jamie Lee Curtis, 64, a plea not to go gender neutral, but to keep men’s and women’s award categories separate. I couldn’t agree with her more.
It’s March, freezing cold, with snow and now flooding. My spring flowers struggle to look bright in the garden. Am I the only one who’s sick of this eternal wintry weather?
My evenings are empty without young Morse
Empty evenings: It’s goodbye to young Morse, exquisitely played by Shaun Evans
Oh dear, another Sunday night with nothing to look forward to. Endeavour came to a brilliant end last week after ten years of the very best writing, plotting, characterisation and acting on British TV.
So, it’s goodbye to young Morse, exquisitely played by Shaun Evans.
Only a couple of weeks ago Happy Valley ended for good. Why does the very best of television have to die for ever when Death In Paradise just goes on and on and on!
The shortage I didn’t expect
I have them with my porridge in the morning. Not this week, though – none to be had at Waitrose
Not surprised to see frozen berries have made it into the ‘virtual shopping basket’, the list of items deemed economically significant by the Office for National Statistics.
I have them with my porridge in the morning. Not this week, though – none to be had at Waitrose.
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