Gynaecology and obstetrics
Monday 4th August
At Benenden Hospital, first-class specialists are on hand to help with all kinds of gynaecological issues, offering a wide range of surgical and non-surgical interventions. Report by Julie Penfold.
One in five women will have gynaecological problems at some point in their lives. Intimate health issues may be common, but it doesn’t make it any less embarrassing for the individual who is experiencing uncomfortable, often persistent symptoms. There’s no need to suffer in silence, however. Some conditions will require specialist help, while others can be easily treated at home.
At Benenden Hospital, patients are typically referred to the gynaecology department for heavy periods, abnormal bleeding, incontinence, prolapse of the pelvic organs, bladder pain, pelvic pain and fertility issues. Common diagnostic tests include ultrasound scans; colposcopy (close-up examination of the cervix to identify causes of abnormal cervical smears); and hysteroscopy (close-up examination of the inside of the womb to investigate causes of heavy or irregular bleeding).
In terms of treatment, the team predominately provides surgical gynaecology services, including surgery for prolapse, incontinence and endometriosis, and laparoscopic (“keyhole”) hysterectomy.
The obstetrics and gynaecology team officially took up their posts in September last year, though many of the team had already been working at the hospital on a locum basis for nine months. Two of the team’s consultant gynaecologists, Rowan Connell and Abhishek Gupta, have also previously worked at the hospital as junior doctors.
The hospital’s gynaecology team is made up of six consultants. Heading up the team is lead consultant gynaecologist and urogynaecologist Rowan Connell, who specialises in minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery including hysterectomies, vaginal prolapse, vaginal reconstructive surgery and incontinence, including urodynamics.
Other team members include: consultant gynaecologist and urogynaecologist Abhishek Gupta, who shares the same specialties as Rowan; Elias Kovoor, a consultant gynaecologist and laparoscopic surgeon who carries out prolapse surgery; Hasib Ahmed, a consultant gynaecologist who specialises in general gynaecology and laparoscopic surgery, including prolapse surgery; Barry Auld, a consultant gynaecologist also specialising in incontinence.
“We see many instances of recurrent prolapse, and if a patient has previously had complicated surgery, we can offer a specialist treatment and use mesh repairs if we need to,” says Rowan. “Patients who have complicated cases are also referred to us because of our expertise. Another relatively new treatment we offer is for interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome. We’re also hoping to offer Botox in the near future, to add to our range of treatment services for overactive bladders.”
Patient referrals are largely from GP practices in London and the south-east, though some people will travel from Norfolk and further afield. The team sees around 30 inpatients and 60 outpatients each week, and they range in age from 20 to 80 years old. They could be NHS choose-and-book patients, self-paying or private patients, or members of benenden.
Referrals to the team don’t always result in surgery. Patients with incontinence issues, for example, can be seen by specialist nurses who will talk them through bladder care, how the bladder works and how pelvic floor exercises can be used as a preventative measure. Before considering a referral, it’s a good idea to see your doctor and ask about bladder function and preventive measures for incontinence.
“Doing pelvic floor exercises is beneficial for all women,” adds Rowan, “especially after childbirth.”
A previous consultant at Benenden Hospital, informed us that she believed that patients with menstrual problems are sometimes referred too quickly to a gynaecologist. “I do feel a lot of conditions should be managed by GPs, such as trying a Mirena coil earlier on to control heavy periods,” she says. “Knowing your body and what is normal for you is important when it comes to your gynaecological health. If you spot anything unusual, you should visit your doctor.”
*As with all of benenden's discretionary services, a member must first see their own GP and be referred for further tests or treatments. They will then need to explore waiting times on the NHS. If the wait is too long, they may contact member services to ask if benenden is able to help.
Source: This article first appeared in benhealth, issue 26 (spring 2014).