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Minister for Health publishes report of women’s voices on women’s health in Ireland

Milestone reached following ‘radical listening’ exercise by Women’s Health Taskforce


Today, Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D., has published a report of a ‘radical listening’ exercise to hear women’s voices on women’s health through research commissioned by the Women’s Health Taskforce this year.

Led by independent researchers, over 270 women participated in these discussions from all over Ireland, sharing their experiences of, and wishes for, the Irish health system. The research was carried out in three stages, beginning in mid-2020 and finishing in June 2021, involving social and media listening; hearing women’s stories and experiences; and national workshops with women.

The report is the result of a priority project for the Women’s Health Taskforce and provides invaluable insight into women’s experiences of healthcare in Ireland. Women highlight some really positive experiences but also important issues that they want to see improved in particular around: information, respect, and access.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D., who met with all participants at an online launch event today, said; “Listening to women is the cornerstone of our work on women’s health. This report and the conversations it represents are a vital part of how we create a new approach to women’s health in this country. The report captures some very honest and candid feedback which shows us where we can build on good practices but which can also help us critically assess where we can deliver more and better for women. I’m focused today on engaging with the women who participated in this exercise and listening to their perspectives and their experiences. Over the coming weeks, I will announce further measures to improve the delivery of women’s healthcare in Ireland, informed and underpinned by the voices and perspectives in this report and what I have heard here today. This is not a conclusion, this needs to be an ongoing conversation. What we need, and what we are working towards, is a revolution in women's healthcare."


Rachel Kenna, Chief Nursing Officer, Department of Health, said; “These perspectives are so important to shaping and improving how we do our work in the Department. This report is unique in policy making but adds to the comprehensive work underway by HIQA, the HSE and the Department of Health to listen through the National Care Experience Programme. The energy today and the positivity from the women who have worked with us is really remarkable – it is so encouraging to see and hear so many concrete and interesting suggestions for ways we can make the system better.”

Peggy Maguire, co-Chair of the Women’s Health Taskforce and Director at the European Institute of Women’s Health said: "A focus of the Taskforce is understanding women's experiences of our health services both in their own right and as principal caregivers. As mothers, daughters, wives and friends, women are the managers of health and key health decision-makers, often at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. Women are also patients, particularly during their older years, in an increasingly ageing society where women outlive men but spend their older years disproportionately burdened by ill health. The Radical Listening exercise places women's voices at the centre of Taskforce activity, and acknowledges the improvement of health and well-being of women across the lifespan as a priority for Irish health policy.”

Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland said: “Through decades of working with NWC members on women’s health, we know the importance of placing women’s experiences at the centre of any reform. The partnership between NWC and the Department of Health in the Women’s Health Taskforce is ensuring the voices of women are informing the changes to our health system to develop a greater gender sensitive approach and to deliver improved outcomes for women. To safeguard and promote the health of future generations of women and girls, a whole-of-Government ‘health in all policies’ approach is now required if we are to create the conditions that enable all women to flourish.”


The report can be found here.

Notes for Editors:

“Radical Listening”

  • Radical listening is a methodology used internationally often in conflict resolution settings. The word ‘radical’ encompasses both the method of listening and the intention: radical in the sense of going to the root of what is being said, and not said, and radical in the sense of creating a potential for transformation.
  • The “Radical Listening” exercise was commissioned by the Women’s Health Taskforce.
  • The project was led by independent researchers MCCP and invited women from all over Ireland to participate and share their views on women’s health in Ireland. Over 270 women participated in these discussions beginning in mid-2020 and finishing in June 2021. The project was carried out in partnership with the National Women’s Council of Ireland, who have conducted additional, focused discussions with women from marginalised groups.


Women's Health Taskforce

  • A Women's Health Taskforce was established by the Department of Health to improve women’s health outcomes and experiences of healthcare in September 2019.
  • Operating on a phased and prioritised basis, the Taskforce is looking at a range of issues impacting women’s health. Based on the evidence and informed by women’s perspectives and views, the Taskforce identified 5 initial priorities within its initial 2-year action programme:
  1. Listening to women
  2. gynaecological health
  3. supports for menopause
  4. physical activity levels for older women
  5. mental health supports for women and girls
  • The Taskforce includes staff from within the Department as well as external partners including the European Institute for Women’s Health, the HSE including the National Women and Infants’ Health Programme, The National Women’s Council of Ireland, The Irish College of General Practitioners, The Institute of Public Health, and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
  • The programme will continue to listen to women and girls and work with them in the design and delivery of health and social care, and to promote a coherent, holistic approach to improving health outcomes and experiences for women and girls.
  • The Women’s Health Taskforce webpage:


Women’s Health Fund

  • A dedicated €5million Women’s Health Fund was put in place to support a programme of priority actions in the four priority areas, based on evidence and extensive engagement with the HSE.
  • For example, the fund has supported the introduction of one-stop “see and treat” gynaecology clinics in the community in which women can be seen and assessed, following referral by their GP to the hospital’s general gynaecology services and the introduction of specialist menopause clinics.
  • The Women’s Health Fund will continue to support implementation of women’s health priorities in 2021, including in the areas of menopause, physical activity, paediatric adolescent gynaecology, and mental health.


Maternity and Gynaecology Service Developments

  • The government is committed to promoting and improving women's health outcomes, as highlighted in the Programme for Government and underlined by the commitment, under Budget 2021, to provide €12m in funding for new developments in maternity and gynaecology services. This significant investment will help ensure a renewed impetus to the implementation of the National Maternity Strategy and help improve gynaecology services, for example, by accelerating the roll out of the Ambulatory Gynaecology Model of Care through the establishment of additional clinics in 2021.