Digital health startup Bia Care has been awarded additional funding from the NHS to extend the rollout of its virtual clinic providing remote care for women going through the menopause.
The London-based company launched the digitally-enabled service last year, allowing women to book an appointment, have a group online consultation with a doctor, get a personalised plan for managing menopause and – if needed – get treatments delivered to their homes.
The service is available privately at a cost of £60 (around $81) for a 90-minute online group consultation, with additional fees for hormone replacement therapy or testosterone treatments, but was made available via the NHS on a pilot basis last year in some areas.
The new funding will extend the availability of the online clinics, in partnership with NHS Primary Care Networks, from 1 April, according to the company.
Bia Care says that the partnership is the first of its kind in the UK and will help to address a female health gap – said to be the largest among all G20 countries – with many women unable to access specialist menopause care or facing a waiting list of 12 months or more.
According to the company, research has shown that poorly managed menopause symptoms can cause one in five women to leave their employment.
“With an growing awareness of the struggles women face due to the menopause, there is an increasing need for professionals trained in menopause care to provide this service,” said Sucheta Iyengar, NHS consultant and menopause clinical lead.
“Unfortunately, there is an inadequate number of such professionals and there aren’t enough to meet this burgeoning demand,” she added.
Bia’s use of group consultations means that up to six times more women can get advice from a single consultation, and the company claims the results of the pilot show that the service model “delivered clinically effective services at a fraction of the cost of traditional menopause clinics.”
The NHS is looking at other approaches to try to tackle the gap in menopause care, including reclassification of some menopause medications to make them available over-the-counter (OTC).
Earlier this month, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) launched a public consultation on plans to make Novo Nordisk’s vaginal HRT tablet product Gina (estradiol) – used to treat vaginal atrophy and dryness – available from pharmacies.
If reclassified, it would be made available as an OTC medicine only to women aged 50 and above who have not had a period for at least 12 months.
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