Sabrina* is a pharmacist in her early 30s living in Hertfordshire. She has endometriosis and has been on the NHS waiting list to see a gynaecologist for endometriomas (cysts which form on the ovaries) for over a year, which is delaying her access to NHS fertility treatment. Here, she tells R29 UK how the waiting times for gynaecology is affecting her health, her fertility, and her sense of self as part of our exclusive investigation into growing waits.
As of January 2022 over 180,000 women are waiting over 18 weeks (the NHS standard) from referral to treatment in gynaecology – that was a 383% increase on 2020.
“After I got married in 2018, my husband and I started trying for a baby. After a while we started to become a little concerned that we hadn’t yet got pregnant. A couple of years in, we had a conversation with our GP who, frustratingly, just told us to keep trying,” Sabrina says.
“My husband and I decided to get some tests done at a private fertility clinic. All of the tests came back fine, apart from one scan. That scan identified what looked like cysts in my ovaries.”
“The scan prompted my GP to refer me to see a gynaecologist, who I waited three or four months to see as an initial appointment, but didn’t really speak to me about my cysts and simply referred me on to see a fertility specialist,” she continues.
“After waiting a while longer, our fertility referral was refused because of a concern that they didn’t know enough about the endometrial cysts and wouldn’t be able to move forward with treatment until we knew if they needed to be removed.”
Sabrina had an appointment scheduled but it was cancelled because the specialist gynaecologist had to take leave. She was then told she would have to wait months for a new appointment.
“I’m now stuck waiting to see an NHS gynaecologist once again to investigate and decide on a course of action for my cysts, and until then fertility treatment is on pause.”
This drawn out process has taken a serious toll on Sabrina’s mental health.
“It just makes you constantly anxious with all of the waiting. I’m so conscious of time, and the fact my fertility will be impacted the longer I wait,” she says. “This whole process has already taken well over a year, after two years of trying to conceive. On top of all of this, the pain from the cysts continues to worsen as time goes on.”
In total Sabrina says that she and her husband have now spent around £10,000 from their savings on private health treatments including egg freezing which she wasn’t eligible for on the NHS until she had seen the gynaecologist for her cysts.
“We should be entitled to treatment on the NHS but how long can we wait? It’s been so disappointing. It shouldn’t be this way. I think more funding is needed for gynaecology. The NHS should also be training more medical professionals so that more people become experts in [conditions like endometriosis]. There needs to be more information too, it’s so hard to even know what sort of care is available.”
“How much chasing and calling can you do,” Sabrina concludes. “I understand that there are waits for everything but this is impacting everything. It would be nice just to know even when to expect an appointment so we had a timeline.”