Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Questions (412)

Michael Healy-Rae


412. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding women's sexual health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39809/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

While it should be noted that GPs already provide the services referred to by the Deputy in the normal course of their work, there is also wider policy work ongoing to support improved sexual health and wellbeing in women.

Women’s health is a priority for my Department.  I was pleased to hold the first meeting of the newly established Women’s Health Task Force on the 26 of September. 

The Task Force will examine a wide range of issues impacting women’s health outcomes in Ireland and to work on these on a phased, prioritised basis. As its first action, the Taskforce will lead a large-scale consultation with women in Ireland to hear their experiences of and solutions for the health system.

Good progress has been made in the area of sexual health.  The National Sexual Health Strategy 2015-2020 was launched in October 2015. The Strategy’s key aims are to improve sexual health and wellbeing and to reduce negative sexual health outcomes.  A mid-term review of the Strategy, conducted in 2018, found that implementation is going well and that the Strategy will remain relevant beyond 2020.

Consequently, the vision for the strategy, priorities and actions post 2020 will be reviewed to ensure the programme evolves in line with the changes to the external environment and the opportunities these may bring.  A refreshed version of the strategy will be developed in 2020.

The Ancillary Recommendations of the Committee on the 8th Amendment to the Constitution are a key implementation priority. Funding of €500,000 has been provided to the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme to support implementation of the Recommendations.  Measures include the expansion of condom provision, actions related to education and training, work arising from recommendations of the NCCA review of Relationship and Sexuality Education, communications campaigns, the MyOptions support service for those facing unplanned pregnancy, and development of a general population survey on sexual health.

A Working Group has been established within the Department of Health to examine the various policy, regulatory and legislative issues arising in relation to improving access to contraception. The Group has recently held a public consultation exercise and has engaged directly with numerous stakeholders.  It is currently preparing a report which I expect to receive shortly.     

A policy review of sexual assault treatment units (SATUs) has recently been conducted, which has put forward a number of practical actions to enhance and strengthen the Health response to victims of sexual violence.

One of the Review's actions is to communicate the role and support available through SATUs more routinely and effectively. The HSE is currently working on a SATU specific communications project - one aspect of which will be to improve knowledge and education about SATU services among, clinicians across the health service, and wider society.

 A sub-Committee of the National Strategy for Women and Girls (NSWG) Strategy Committee has been established to examine issues around period poverty. The sub-Committee is chaired by my Department and includes representation from a number of Government Departments and NGOs, including the National Women's Council of Ireland. The first meeting of the sub-Committee took place on September 6.