Rise in endometriosis hospital admissions in Bedfordshire last year
Charity says women are being "let down" by the NHS
More women in Bedfordshire were admitted to hospital last year with a chronic condition that can cause debilitatingly painful periods.
Charity Endometriosis UK said women forced to go to hospital with endometriosis are being "let down" by the NHS, as they are not getting the treatment they need elsewhere.
NHS Digital data shows there were around 170 hospital admissions with a main diagnosis of endometriosis in the Bedfordshire CCG area in 2019-20.
This was up from 165 the year before.
Last year, 30 (18 per cent) were classed as emergencies.
Only last month, Bedford Today highlighted the plight of one Bedford woman who has spent eight years in agony after being misdiagnosed.
She had even set up an Instagram page in the hope it would be a "survival guide" for others.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition – which affects around 10 per cent of women and has no known cure – in which tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows elsewhere in the body, such as around the ovaries. In extremely rare cases it can occur in men.
The tissue sheds in the same way that blood does during the menstrual cycle, but has nowhere to escape to, causing inflammation, pain, and a build-up of scar tissue.
Endometriosis Awareness Month, which takes place every March, aims to raise greater recognition for the disease, but Endometriosis UK said the figures show there is still a lack of understanding.
Chief executive Emma Cox said the health service is not providing women with the help they need from non-emergency care and should "face up to the scale" of the problem.
She added: "We’re letting these people down by not providing them with the treatment and management they need to manage their condition – endometriosis is a chronic condition but so few people get offered pain management."
But she said society is also responsible for not taking the condition seriously, with many people still too scared to discuss the "taboo" subject of menstrual conditions.
The charity has called on the NHS to implement NICE guidelines – which were adopted in 2017 but have not yet been implemented – to help all healthcare practitioners better recognise the symptoms of endometriosis.
A recent report from a group of MPs found that it takes an average of eight years to receive a diagnosis in England – a figure which has not improved for a decade.
Ms Cox said the coronavirus pandemic has caused "real problems" as women have not been able to access medical support in the same way as before, leaving a backlog of operations.
However, she said working from home has helped some sufferers manage their condition because they are not having to commute to work.
And she added that a new University of Edinburgh study into the effects of a non-hormonal drug on endometriosis treatment is "very exciting", though cautioned it is in the earliest stages.
An NHS spokeswoman said: “NHS staff have made huge efforts to maintain care for those patients who have needed it urgently throughout the pandemic and are increasingly bringing back more services safely.
"Anyone who thinks they are showing signs or symptoms of endometriosis should contact their GP for advice, treatment and referral for tests so they can get any treatment they need as quickly as possible.”
SYMPTOMS OF ENDOMETRIOSIS
Painful, heavy or irregular periods
Painful bowel movements
Pain when urinating
Pain during or after sex
Difficulty getting pregnant