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Further cuts to services increase risk of ‘perfect storm’ for sexual health

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) react with deep concern to new findings published today by the King’s Fund showing that local councils are planning on making large cuts to funding for sexual health services.

The analysis, which is based on local authorities’ 2017/18 planned public health budgets released by the Department for Communities and Local Government, indicate that local councils are planning sizeable cuts to their overall sexual health service funding, as a direct consequence of the wider financial pressures they are facing.

Local councils are due to spend £30m less on sexual health in the coming year compared to 2016/17, representing a 5 per cent reduction in the amount of money available for services. This latest funding reduction follows the £200m in-year cut to public health budgets delivered in 2015, as well as the further 4 per cent per year cut announced to the budget in the most recent Spending Review, which constitutes a real terms reduction in public health funding of at least £600m a year by 2020/21.

Significantly, funding for essential sexual health promotion and prevention components is due to be cut by local authorities by a third compared with last year, with smaller cuts planned for sexual health testing and treatment.

Meanwhile, data released by Public Health England in June showed that newly diagnosed cases of syphilis were at their highest level since 1950, whilst rates of sexually transmitted infections amongst men who have sex with men are 38% higher than in 2012. New reports have also shown that the first cases of gonorrhoea resistant to all existing antibiotics have been identified in three countries - France, Spain and Japan.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Elizabeth Carlin, BASHH President said:

This new analysis from the King’s Fund paints an extremely worrying picture for sexual health services across the country. With the dust having barely settled from the news that the first cases of gonorrhoea resistant to all known antibiotics have now been identified in three countries, the prospect of sexual health services facing further significant cuts to funding could not come at a more dangerous time.

With an unprecedented demand for services, coupled with record levels of new STI diagnoses and treatment-resistant infection, we are truly facing the prospect of a ‘perfect storm’ in sexual health. It is essential that the new Government ensures sexual health services are appropriately funded so that vital sexual health promotion, prevention, testing and treatment can be delivered. Failing to do so is the falsest of false economies and the consequences will be felt for years to come.

Further cuts to services increase risk of ‘perfect storm’ for sexual health