ORCHA’s response to the Government’s first ever Women’s Health Strategy, published today

Shot of a young businesswoman using a smartphone in a modern office stock photo
Feature image: Shot of a young businesswoman using a smartphone in a modern office stock photo

Today (20 July) the first ever government-led Women’s Health Strategy for England today has been published.


A statement from Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO of ORCHA

This is a day to celebrate. A recognition, finally, that women have unique needs and that decades of under-funding, coupled with the pandemic, have left women’s health services reeling.

Yes, we desperately need to tackle ‘deep-rooted and systemic issues’: undiagnosed endometriosis, poor uptake of breast screening and lack of support for women who’ve experienced domestic abuse, to name a few.  But how?

In short, through innovation.

The proposed leap forward in women’s services means thinking differently. In his June 2022 PLAN FOR DIGITAL HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE, the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, said that digital transformation would be the linchpin upon which reforms should be based.

We agree. There are many health apps, often designed by NHS clinicians and backed with clinical evidence, to help address women’s health issues and improve the efficiency of the NHS.

And recent independent research we commissioned from OnePoll has shown that 59% of women believe digital health can alleviate the burden on the NHS, with 43% already using a health app. Women are increasingly recognising the flexibility and convenience of being supported by digital technology.

But here’s the problem: according to this same research, only 17% of women are being recommended these health apps by a healthcare professional. This leaves the majority of women to find a digital solution from Google searches or the recommendations of friends. We certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to find their own medicines via a Google search.

Added to this concern, ORCHA has assessed more than 200 FemTech apps, testing each against 350 criteria, and discovered that only 20% of these meet thresholds for quality, safety or effectiveness. In particular, our research into the privacy policies of 25 leading period tracker apps leaves us gravely worried.

We call on the FemTech industry to recognise that this is the hour to act, and to raise standards. ORCHA is here to support you.

And doctors, nurses and clinicians: digital health can support your work in a myriad of ways – and much of this great innovation is coming from your colleagues within the NHS. We recognise that this is a period of massive change, so we’ve set up a free and CPD-accredited online Digital Health Academy to support you. The Academy can be accessed here or on the NHS Learning Portal here.