Royal Navy nurse and NHS boss speaks about menopause in bid to break taboo

Sue Harriman Picture: Laura Scottorn
Sue Harriman Picture: Laura Scottorn
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IN A bid to break the taboo of menopause and retain staff, the boss of an NHS Trust has spoken about her own experience.

Chief executive at Solent NHS Trust Sue Harriman, who trained as a nurse in the Royal Navy, hosted a MenoPause event last week and invited colleagues – both women and men – to talk openly about how the menopause has affected them, or someone they know.

Speaking at the event Sue said: ‘Feeling physically unwell in meetings and being worried about how colleagues would perceive my symptoms was not great.

‘Mentally, you can struggle to retain large amounts of information, which is a frustrating change.’

She said the Menopause was not covered during her nurse training.

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Sue added: ‘When I opened up about the issues I was facing I felt safe and supported. The reaction of colleagues showed me that so many other people were going through the same experience.’

The event forms part of a wider menopause strategy to retain staff in the trust.

Sue said: ‘NHS staff retention is so important and we know that many people who go through the menopause do actually resign.

‘Our ambition is to make the conversation safe and adapt the working environment, making Solent a great place to work.’

Solent’s female employees make up over 80 per cent of the workforce, with more than 52 per cent of women over the age of 40. 

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The menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline, but some women also experience the menopause before 40.

Sue added: ‘We want to remove the taboo and recognise that the NHS workforce, which is getting older, must be able to move through all stages of their lives, ageing happily while working for the NHS.’

The chief executive believes that everyone – not just women – should be involved in the discussion, including men and those who identify as LGBT+.

Chair of the NHS England/Improvement Menopause Group Jacqui McBurnie added: ‘Our precious NHS workforce is predominantly female. As a reflection of this, proving a safe, supportive environment to enable colleagues to talk about the menopause and ageing well is vital.’

For more information go to nhs.uk/conditions/menopause.