Women's Health Hubs
BRACE is carrying out an evaluation of Women’s Health Hubs. The study is looking at what and where Women’s Health Hubs are; their characteristics; how hubs are working for the women who use them, and the staff working in them. We will also explore what Women’s Health Hubs have achieved so far.
Women’s1 sexual and reproductive health needs vary throughout their lives, from the start of puberty, to pregnancy and birth, menopause, and beyond. Many organisations and professionals are involved, including GP services, gynaecology, maternity, and community sexual health services. Women often have to attend more than one service to get the care they need, services are not always joined up, and it can be difficult to access care, for example - smear tests and coil fitting may happen in different places, and are paid for by different organisations. Funding cuts, Covid-19, and shortages of trained staff have also affected women’s health services. For women in disadvantaged groups, it can be even harder to access care and address health needs.
Local teams across the UK have responded by setting up ‘Women’s Health Hubs2’. Hubs bring the different services together to work more closely in a local area and provide women’s health services in the community. Sometimes this can be in one place (e.g., a health centre) but often it involves clinics and care in a range of locations. Hubs are a new idea, often developed by local doctors, and most women in the UK do not yet have a hub in their local area. There are currently a number of hubs across the UK, and they are all different, with a different mix of services and staff. Services might include coil fitting, menopause care, and treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding.
There is a lack of research on Women’s Health Hubs, and we do not know exactly where, why and how they have been set up, or how hubs are working for women and staff.
1: While we refer to women throughout, we recognise that Women’s Health Hubs may also serve people who are transgender, non-binary, with variations in sex characteristics (VSC) or who are intersex. We will work to make sure that our evaluation is inclusive.
2: Women’s Health Hubs are understood differently by stakeholders – there is no single, agreed meaning and they are not necessarily a physical location but a ‘concept’. We will explore the diversity in language, as part of our evaluation.
This rapid evaluation is organised into three main parts:
Work package 1: Building a detailed map of Women’s Health Hubs. The team will build a database and map of all of the known Women’s Health Hubs in the UK. To do this they will survey people leading the hubs, and interview other key people involved in hubs across the country. If possible, they will also develop a working ‘typology’, sorting different types of hubs into categories.
Work package 2: In-depth research with four hub sites in England. Four hub sites will be chosen to take part in in-depth research. In these four areas, the research team will interview a range of people including GPs, nurses, sexual and reproductive health consultants, gynaecologists, local senior leaders, and women using hub services. The team will also hold up to four group discussions with women (one in each hub area) - the discussion groups will be in a local community group in an area or community where uptake of the service is low. In addition, the team will also review key documents linked to the hubs, such as business plans and any patient feedback they have collected.
Work package 3: Firming up evidence and developing recommendations.The team will bring together the findings from parts one and two of the study to produce evidence and provide recommendations for policy, practice and future research in this area. This will include identifying outcomes which are/could be used to understand the impact of Women’s Health Hubs on women’s health.
Early evaluation of Women’s Health Hubs: Initial findings October 2022
To learn more about our findings to date, read our interim evaluation report
December 2021 - March 2023