Men tell why they don’t go to the doctor’s

21 November 2005

Men have told the Mens Health Forum (MHF) why they tend to go to the doctor’s later rather than sooner – and now the Forum will be telling the government.

A study released by the MHF today shows a high level of dissatisfaction among men with the current family doctor service and widespread support for extended surgery hours, more male clinics, more check ups and screening tests.

The present failure of GP surgeries to reach out to men is actively contributing to the poor state of male health in England, warns the Forum.

Around 400 men took part in the study as part of the Men’s Health Forum response to the Government’s ‘Your health, your care, your say’ consultation exercise on the future of non-hospital services.

A further consultation exercise with health professionals echoed these findings, with over half the respondents saying that health services may make men feel unwelcome. They said health services were often provided in "feminised" premises, in terms of décor and display material, and that there was a gender bias in the provision of some services.

Extended hours

The views of male patients clearly indicated that more men would visit their GP if the surgery was open in the evening or on Saturday. Asked if they could change one thing to make it more likely they would visit their GP, most men replied by suggesting extended surgery hours.

One reply summed up many others – ‘Have it (the surgery) open more in the evenings and weekends. Also, most health campaigns seem to be aimed at women, children and the elderly – nothing for we lowly men. Hardly an encouragement to attend, and helps feed into the general male macho "I’m fine, nothing the doc can do for me" attitude a lot of men have. For some reason as a gender we seem to be reluctant to admit we have health problems. I am a clinician myself and have to be REALLY ill before I go to my GP’.

Other suggestions:

many called for more ‘male-friendly’ surgeries, with more men’s magazines and men’s health posters in the waiting room, and more male receptionists and male nurse practitioners.

One suggested touch screen monitors with health information in the waiting room. Another man even suggested showing old cowboy films, and a third suggested televised football. One reply stated: ‘ Be less formal, make it more fun (music perhaps?). Also I find the smell of GP surgeries depressing’.

A number of men said they felt ‘out of place’ when visiting their GP, and several suggested that GPs should hold male only sessions or male health clinics.

Several men wanted to see an on-line booking system. One proposal was that surgeries should be held in local betting shops, pubs, golf clubs and other men’s venues .

‘Tough it out’

A majority of the health professionals consulted suggested that during the course of their lifetimes, many men learned attitudes that pre-disposed them not only to poorer health behaviours, such as greater risk-taking than women, but also to poorer use of services. It was suggested that men were:

  • more likely to try to "tough out" illness
  • more likely to give priority to work commitments over treatment and rest
  • more likely to have a self image that encouraged them to deny illness – illness equals weakness
  • less likely than women to be prepared to discuss their health
  • more likely to fear the consequences of illness and disease

Some ‘could happen tomorrow’

Commenting on the findings, Peter Baker, Director of the Men’s Health Forum, said: ‘Some of the things men are calling for could quite easily happen tomorrow, such as more male friendly waiting rooms. Other ideas need a culture change among GPs and action by the Government. GPs must change to meet the needs of men.

‘We are looking to the Department of Health to listen to the specific needs of men, who are currently not using primary care services effectively. We need to develop services that men will find accessible and attractive so that they do not delay seeking help while their health continues to deteriorate.

‘The Equality Bill currently going through Parliament will require health services to promote equal access by men and women, so GPs are going to have to address these issues in the near future. Our study shows them what they need to do.’

Your health, your care, your say

In its response to the Government’s Your health, your care, your say consultation exercise, the Men’s Health Forum says the present state of male health is a very significant public health problem in its own right and that the present system is actively contributing to the poor state of male health in England.

‘It is absolutely essential that the White Paper recognises the severity of the present position by taking men’s attitudes, needs and sensibilities explicitly into account in developing future provision.

‘This emphatically does not mean to give priority to men over women, but simply to acknowledge that men and women have different attitudes to primary care services and use them differently. Unless the White Paper acknowledges that this is the case, it is likely that the most promising opportunity in recent years to improve the health of men will have been missed.’

Download the MHF’s full response to Your health, your care, your say here

http://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/userpage1.cfm?item_id=1731



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