DEREK Mackay has been urged to establish a dedicated Women’s Health Fund to promote, research, advice and services for women specific conditions as part of next year’s budget.

Scottish Labour said its proposal would help address “overlooked and under-researched” conditions, including the impact of female heart disease.

The party suggested money could support research into women-only conditions such as endometriosis, improve GP training, commission more cervical screening at sexual health clinics, and ensure Scotland’s NHS has the right specialists, such as those for lipoedema.

Although endometriosis and lipoedema affect up to 1 in 10 women, Labour said the journey to diagnosis is often long and difficult, with women reporting symptoms being dismissed.

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Experiences that will affect most women, from menstruation to the menopause, lack basic provisions.

“Women do not currently have access to sanitary products on a universal basis, and there is little support available for women experiencing the menopause.

“Women make up more than half of our population and Scottish Labour believes it is time that the government invest resources in their healthcare.

“A women’s health fund would demonstrate a strong commitment to redressing the imbalance and improve our health service in the long run.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said: “Cervical cancer is a cancer which we know we can one day eliminate. Yet it is only through investment in activity to increase uptake of cervical screening that this will happen.

“Funding which could facilitate improved access to this potentially life-saving test would be very welcome and help to get closer to the day no mother, daughter or friend has to lose their life to cervical cancer.”

Dr Anne Williams, a trustee of Talk Lipoedema said: “Lipoedema, a type of fat disorder that is commonly wrongly diagnosed as obesity, affects women across all ages.

“It often leads to significant distress, mental and physical health problems at a time when women have many family and work demands.

“A dedicated women’s health fund would help identify appropriate specialist treatment paths and prevent complications including mobility problems, depression, and cellulitis.”

Alys Mumford, of Engender, added: “Health is increasingly recognised as a key area of women’s inequality – from the dismissal of women’s pain by medical professionals, to insufficient research funding for issues of women’s health, to lack of provision for the reproductive health needs of disabled women.

“We’re encouraged by calls to recognise women’s health in the budget, and to provide funding to help close Scotland’s gender health gap.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Since 2007, tackling inequalities and promoting policies which support women and girls has been a priority for this government; and we are committed to supporting everyone to live longer, healthier lives.

"This includes breast and cervical screening delivered through our £100m Cancer Strategy, as well as additional mental health support for expectant and new mothers. 

"We have also led the way when it comes to tackling issues of access to sanitary products - providing £5.2m funding to allow all schools, colleges and universities in Scotland to provide access to free sanitary products in 2018/19, as well as giving over £500,000 to Fareshare to expand access to those products for low income families, through thier third sector partners."