Mary Archer Speaks Out Against Fragmentation in Women's Health

20/12/2012 10:57 GMT | Updated 17/02/2013 10:12 GMT

Last week Wellbeing of Women hosted the Annual Memorial Address for the Queen's late surgeon-gynaecologist, Sir George Pinker.

We felt honoured to have special guest Dame Mary Archer deliver a really thought-provoking lecture about the fragmentation of women's health care. Of course Mary brought the experience of running Addenbrookes NHS Trust for ten years and Addenbrookes Charitable Trust to inform a very interesting lay view of healthcare.

Refreshingly, she was prepared to talk about her own recent experience overcoming a rare form of bladder cancer to illustrate her point.

In order to recover from the disease she relied on a platoon of highly-specialised doctors and scientists working together. But, most importantly, she felt that she had also needed the care of one of the team who treated the whole person rather than an aspect of the disease.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mary's view that whilst we all want specialists who acquire increasing knowledge about a disease we also want to be cared for as a person.

I feel this is especially important for gynaecological diseases. For instance, if a woman has a problem with her womb or ovaries - her 'insides' - her disease may seem invisible to herself and others. She may well receive excellent medical care from specialist doctors and nurses but it is all too easy for them to treat the disease whilst neglecting the emotional and intellectual needs of the patient.

Some hospitals have expert psychiatrists who specialise in helping cancer patients but I suspect that specific services to help with women faced with hysterectomy, or premature menopause are very variable.

The most poignant part of the evening were the tributes paid to the late Sir George Pinker who was very important to the development of Wellbeing of Women (in those days called Birthright) and engaged the Princess of Wales as our patron (having personally delivered Princes William and Harry).

There was a beautiful symmetry to the gathering as the current royal surgeon-gynaecologist Marcus Setchell gave the Welcome address. Of course, he has been busily engaged treating the Duchess of Cambridge for acute morning sickness and there he was on standby - his phone at the ready.

On a lighter note I had two lovely engagements at the Dorchester Hotel last week. I popped into fertility expert Zita West's book launch and mingled with a very happy crowd of mothers and babies who had benefitted from her advice.

And the previous day, Wellbeing of Women was honoured to be the charity partner for the NatWest Everywoman Awards. The ceremony honours female entrepreneurs including those aged 25 and under. The awards have been running for a decade and champion women who contribute so much to our economy. It was truly inspiring to meet the finalists and winners whose stories were remarkable.

Hayley Gait-Golding won the award in her age category (26-35). She is the rather brilliant young woman who set up BEAR Nibbles, delicious fruit snacks with no added sugar or preservatives. My grandson is addicted to them and they are clearly much better for him than sweets!

And while we are on the subject of healthy food I would like to end this blog with some heartening news. I was recently speaking with one of our experts and she gave me a health tip.

Apparently eating three balanced meals a day and three small snacks is the best way to keep both adults and children healthy and slim. No crash diets!

She also advised that anyone who is battling their weight can benefit enormously from just ten minutes of exercise a day, be it walking to the bus stop or using the office stairs. Whilst ten minutes of exercise won't make you thinner it will improve your cardiovascular health potentially adding an extra five years your life.

Happy Christmas everyone!