The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging women to book a health check with their GP as MBS data reveals a drop in the number of female attendances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RACGP has partnered with Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Week, running from 7 to 11 September, and is asking women and their GPs to use the week to review and schedule any health checks that may have been missed over the past months.

RACGP spokesperson Dr Lara Roeske urged women to use Women’s Health Week as a reminder to put their health first.

“We know that women can tend to put the needs of their loved ones before themselves – on top of that many have faced additional stress, anxiety and financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My message to women across Australia is this: even in the most difficult times, it’s important to take care of your own health and wellbeing.

“For those who may have missed a scheduled health check in the past months, Women’s Health Week serves as a valuable reminder – call your GP and book that appointment today.

“GPs have been very concerned to see the drop off in patients during the pandemic – the problem is widespread, we’re seeing it across all genders and cultural backgrounds, and it has serious implications. The last thing we want is patients delaying important medical care and health problems becoming worse.

“When it comes to women’s health, there are particular concerns. Pregnant women, for instance, need regular health checks which are essential to keep up to ensure the health and wellbeing of both mother and child.

Dr Roeske, a former Chair of the Sexual Health Medicine Network, stressed that women should know their GP is there for them, and more accessible than ever.

“The overwhelming majority of GPs are offering telehealth appointments and it’s safe to visit your clinic if you need to go in-person – general practices have implemented a range of infection prevention and control measures for patient and staff safety.

“So there is no need to delay, now’s the time to put your health and wellbeing first. If you’ve delayed an appointment or have a new concern, call your GP today.”

Held annually in September, Women’s Health Week is the biggest week in Australia focusing on good health for all women and girls in Australia (womenshealthweek.com.au). 

“It’s important for women and their GPs to have access to the same practical and easy-to-understand health information so we encourage everyone to sign up to the week to receive five days of free evidence-based health articles, videos, quizzes and tools.”

Sharon Gardner, practice manager at Bridgetown Medical Group, stresses that it’s Women’s Health Day every day at the Bridgetown Medical Group. 

The practice runs a Women’s Wellness Clinic each month and Dr Sarah Youngson has recently been joined by Dr Emily Webb, who is available for longer appointments for women.