An MP has raised hopes that prescription charges for hormone-replacement therapy could be scrapped.
Labour’s Carolyn Harris said she expects sufficient votes in support of her private member’s Bill to end HRT prescription charges in England.
Support from MPs would overcome a significant hurdle for the Bill – although it would ultimately need government backing to become law.
Mrs Harris’s Bill would make HRT free for women in England, as it is in Scotland and Wales, and also covers rights at work, education for children and better training for GPs
Around 1.5million women aged 50 or older are going through the menopause in England and about a quarter suffer severe symptoms.
As well as hot flushes and night sweats, hormonal changes often lead to confusion and anxiety that can be misdiagnosed as early-onset dementia or depression.
HRT is taken by around a million women, typically in the form of pills, a cream or gel, which tackles menopausal symptoms.
However, it costs around £9 per prescription, which can see some women who are given two types of hormones forced to pay almost £100 a year.
Mrs Harris’s Bill would make HRT free for women in England, as it is in Scotland and Wales, and also covers rights at work, education for children and better training for GPs.
The campaign to scrap prescription charges has been backed by former model Penny Lancaster, 50, the wife of Sir Rod Stewart.
She was wrongly prescribed antidepressants as she started the menopause and said she felt she was ‘losing grip’.
Mrs Harris, 61, who thought she was having a nervous breakdown during her menopause, said: ‘For me, HRT was life-changing and I want women on lower incomes to have the option of this treatment.
‘I am confident this Bill has support and will go through, with more than 100 votes of support, based on the MPs that have come to me and that I have spoken to.’
The Menopause (Support and Services) Bill has already been backed by senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, who tweeted: ‘The case for this is unanswerable. Menopause is misery for so many women.’
Around 80 per cent of women suffer symptoms like hot flushes and mood swings when they go through the menopause, which typically happens between the age of 45 and 55.
While symptoms last seven years on average, one in three women suffer beyond that.
HRT is taken by around a million women, typically in the form of pills, a cream or gel, which tackles menopausal symptoms
The British Menopause Society (BMS) has also backed the call for free HRT prescriptions ahead of a second parliamentary vote on the issue on October 29
HRT helps by topping up levels of the hormone oestrogen and can also improve bone density –although it carries a small increased risk of breast cancer.
Mrs Harris last week discussed her Bill on ITV’s Loose Women, which has supported scrapping prescription charges for HRT.
Panellist Miss Lancaster said: ‘My anxiety’s gone through the roof. Where I’ve always been very patient, I feel like I’m losing grip.’
The British Menopause Society (BMS) has also backed the call for free HRT prescriptions ahead of a second parliamentary vote on the issue on October 29.
BMS chairman Haitham Hamoda said: ‘Among those who want [HRT], some people can really struggle to pay for it, which is why we would support free prescriptions.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We’re deeply committed to ensuring those who want access to HRT get it and are taking immediate steps to drive women’s health to the top of the agenda through the first government-led Women’s Health Strategy for England.’