Outrage over NHS 'male menopause' leave

Outrage over NHS ‘male menopause’ leave: Campaigners slam ‘silly’ and ‘wasteful’ policies that see medics get up to a year of sick pay for ‘condition that doesn’t exist’

  • NHS managers are being advised to recognise symptoms of male menopause
  • Bosses told to provide portable fans and different uniforms to ease symptoms

Male menopause policies are in place at several NHS trusts – despite its official website describing the term as ‘misleading’ and ‘unhelpful.’

Managers are being advised to recognise symptoms from hot flushes to emotional changes as symptoms of male menopause or ‘andropause’, affecting men in their 40s and 50s.

Men should be helped through ‘physical and emotional symptoms’ in the same way as women going through menopause, according to these guidelines.

Managers have been told to make considerations – such as providing portable fans and different uniforms – to ease their symptoms.

Affected men should be referred to Occupational Health or may even be permitted to take extended periods of paid leave if symptoms become incompatible with work, some policies suggest.

Managers are being advised to recognise symptoms from hot flushes to emotional changes as symptoms of male menopause or ‘andropause’, affecting men in their 40s and 50s

Campaigners said it was another example of the NHS ‘ignoring biological reality’ and moving away from evidence-based language.

Last night, NHS England denied it was national policy – with its own clinical website even suggesting it is not a clinical condition – but rather ‘an unhelpful term sometimes used in the media’.

It states: ‘This label is misleading because it suggests the symptoms are the result of a sudden drop in testosterone in middle age, similar to what occurs in the female menopause. This is not true.’

It comes as East Midlands Ambulance Service is reportedly allowing men to take up to a year’s paid leave for menopausal-like symptoms.

Tina Richardson, deputy director of human resources at East Midlands Ambulance Service, told the Telegraph male staff could receive up to a year of sick pay for symptoms of andropause.

What is the ‘male menopause’? 

Some men develop depression, loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and other physical and emotional symptoms when they reach their late 40s to early 50s.

This is sometimes referred to as the ‘male menopause’.

However, the NHS says this label is ‘unhelpful’ as it suggests symptoms are the result of a sudden drop in testosterone in middle age, similar to what occurs in the female menopause, when this is not the case.

Although testosterone levels fall as men age, the decline is steady at about 1% a year from around the age of 30 to 40, and this is unlikely to cause any problems in itself.

Instead, the NHS says symptoms may be caused by stress, depression, anxiety, the result of smoking or heart problems or a ‘midlife crisis’.

She said: ‘As well as having menopause guidance we also support anyone within the organisation who is affected directly or indirectly by the andropause.

‘We provide occupational sick pay for up to 12 months based on service length. That will support absences which may result from symptoms of the andropause or where time off for medical appointments is required.’

Elsewhere, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s ‘menopause policy and guidance’ states menopause ‘is defined as a biological stage in both women and men’s lives’.

It states all line managers should be willing to discuss symptoms including hot flushes, emotional changes, low energy, sexual function and even ‘swollen or tender breasts’ with men.

The policy aims to ‘foster an environment in which colleagues can openly and comfortably instigate conversations or engage in discussions about menopause’.

It suggests staff who feel ‘unsupported’ can speak to HR or a member of their union.

Male menopause, which is sometimes medically known as the andropause, is marked by a gradual change in testosterone levels.

As with women, the term is used to describe the period in an adult man’s life when his hormone levels fall, potentially causing symptoms including erectile dysfunction, depression, anxiety and rapid fat gain.

But there is considerable debate within the medical community whether it constitutes being recognised as a condition.

Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Teaching Hospitals also lists male menopause as part of its policy on menopause.

It says: ‘Employees should be encouraged to discuss the impact of their menopausal symptoms on their work-life and encourage them to access the support offered.

‘Managers should be ready and willing to have open discussions about the menopause, appreciating the personal nature of the conversation, and treat the discussion sensitively, confidentially, and professionally.’

Meanwhile, an NHS National Menopause Improvement Programme offers ‘education packages’ for clinicians.

Those who sign up can expect ‘a workforce support model that will be pioneered in the NHS and shared with other industries and sectors’.

While the programme predominantly focuses on women, it goes on to say menopause will be experienced by ‘other colleagues including trans and intersex, but you may not hear from this group.’

It also cites the East Midlands Ambulance Services’ andropause guidance as a ‘case study of good practice’.

The trust yesterday appeared to row back on the policy, with a spokesperson for the trust stating there is no separate or special leave policy to allow staff to take 12-months sick leave on full pay.

Helen Joyce, director of advocacy, Sex Matters, said it ‘beggars belief’ that the NHS would have these policies

She said: ‘This is part of an overall trend in HR to ignore, even deny, biological reality.

‘Men don’t experience menopause, and so this policy is both silly and wasteful. When money is tight it’s best used to solve real issues, not invented ones.’

Elaine Miller, women’s health campaigner and fellow of the chartered of physiotherapists, said: ‘If we want to have a health service that is effective, we need to have evidence-based language.

‘There’s no consensus among urologists that and is a real thing. So it seems really counter-productive for NHS trusts to be managing resources on a condition that doesn’t exist.

‘It’s dangerous and counterproductive to men’s health – they should be concentrating on things that exist in mid-life such as cardiovascular health and men’s mental health. Not things that are made up.’

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘This is not national NHS policy.’

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