Published 24 October 2023

NFCC Menopause in Fire Conference

This image shows a room full of people, sitting in front of a large projector screen.

Fire service leaders, medical experts, HR professionals and those affected by menopause gathered at The Rep in central Birmingham in September for the NFCC’s first Menopause in Fire conference.

The conference, which took place on Thursday 21 September, offered a unique opportunity for colleagues within the fire and rescue sector to learn more about the menopause by hearing from medical experts, keynote speakers and those who shared their own experiences.

NFCC was delighted to welcome renowned menopause specialist, GP, author and podcaster, Dr Louise Newson as the conference’s keynote speaker; Dr Newson has appeared on numerous television and radio programmes talking about the menopause and is a regular guest on ITV’s This Morning.

She spoke passionately about her work to support individuals who are experiencing perimenopause and menopause, focusing on the ‘debilitating’ symptoms that are often misdiagnosed as physical and mental illness. Dr Newson also talked about having worked closely with organisations to help them better support employees who are impacted, and the importance of talking openly about menopause and, crucially, keeping the conversation going.

Two women are sitting on a stage addressing conference attendees with a small round table between them

Dr Newson was joined by Dr Rebecca Lewis, co-founder of Newson Health and an expert clinician in the treatment of menopause symptoms. Describing menopause as a ‘Cinderella’ subject that has not been addressed in the right way medically for many years, Dr Lewis explained treatment options, their risks and benefits, and dispelled some of the myths around Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

Other speakers included Government Menopause Employment Champion Helen Tomlinson, Jules King from Women in the Fire Service, Neil Taylor from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Dr Emily Watkins, from Roehampton University, who spoke about fitness and well-being, and AJ Whittaker, who explained some of the support available for those affected by menopause from The Fire Fighters Charity.

One of the key objectives of the conference was to share good practice and case studies were shared by Cambridgeshire and Kent fire and rescue services about some of the things they had achieved within their services, while two women spoke about their own experiences with honesty, openness and a huge amount of support from colleagues in the room.

In the afternoon an interactive session asked delegates to think about what more could be done to raise awareness and understanding of the menopause and its impact within fire and rescue services, and how NFCC could support services to do that.

The idea for a national conference on menopause in the fire and rescue service came from a network of fire service menopause champions who wanted to raise awareness of the menopause and how it is supported more widely across the sector.

Hayley Douglas, Head of Media and Communications and a Menopause Champion at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, was the driving force behind the conference. She said: “When the network of menopause champions first spoke about a national conference we had no idea it would be such a huge success.

“We are grateful to NFCC for hosting the event, and delighted to have had the time and support of Dr Louise Newson and her team at Newson Health, along with colleagues in fire and rescue services across the country to be able to come together, learn, network and share experiences about menopause.

“Menopause is such an important topic and it impacts people in many different ways, physically, mentally and emotionally, and this cannot be simply switched off while at work. Menopause shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and anyone going through the menopause should feel supported at work by their employer, their manager and their colleagues.

“The conference in Birmingham was enlightening, inspirational and empowering for all who attended, and we are looking forward to keeping the conversation going and building on that momentum for the benefit of all our fire and rescue service colleagues.”

Kathryn Billing, Chief Fire Officer at Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and NFCC’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead said:

“The conference provided a fantastic opportunity for networking, and to hear from the amazing speakers, who shared their experiences, passion, professionalism, learning and knowledge – and for that I’d like to a say a huge thank you.

“The event was also about looking at what the fire sector and the National Fire Chiefs Council need to do now, and in the future, to make sure we are supporting anyone who is going through or is impacted by the menopause.

“The interactive session gave us some really useful ideas and insights, and we know that in order to implement change we now need to build on the momentum, get allies on board and work together.”

Feedback and learning from the conference will now be fed back into NFCC to agree next steps, with the aim of producing a national menopause toolkit for fire and rescue services.