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President’s Blog – Professor Matt Phillips

March 2024

Dear Colleagues,

Getting stuck in, together                                               

In my inaugural blog, I outlined three priorities that I will put all my energy into delivering for BASHH – championing a commitment from the Government to develop a new sexual health strategy underpinned by adequate funding; improving access to expertise; and emphasising our need for a bolstered workforce. Here, I would like to share an update about the activities I’ve been working on in the last few weeks to support these.

In early February, we worked closely with our colleagues at the FSRH to publish a joint statement regarding the DHSC’s announcement of the 2024 – 2025 Public Health Grant allocation. Our two organisations, as well as many others in the wider sector, remain hugely concerned by the deep and continuing pressures that have been placed on public health, alongside steep real term reductions in central funding. With Jeremy Hunt’s Spring budget delivery imminent (on 6th March), we will be watching for an update on public health spending, and in parallel, we will continue to engage and mobilise our political champions on the urgency of reversing these cuts. It is these instances of cross-sector collaboration on common goals that are integral to bringing about change and that we will pursue to amplify our calls for a national sexual health strategy.  

February also saw the Department for Education open its consultation on Gender Questioning Children: Non-statutory guidance for schools and colleges in England. The proposed guidance sets out a ‘parent first’ approach to supporting gender questioning young people in schools and considers a range of topics, including use of pronouns, school uniforms, and physical education. We have been working with the Adolescent SIG and the Sexual Minorities SIG to develop our response on behalf of BASHH, which sets out concerns about how education settings can be supported to safeguard young people from harm, and our conviction that schools should provide affirming and person centred guidance and support. The deadline for consultation responses is 12th March, so if you wanted to submit individual responses in addition to our response from BASHH, you can find out more here.

Meanwhile, we continue to engage with key partners across local government and public health on the importance of encouraging close and collaborative working between sexual health providers and commissioners. The LGA’s earlier analysis into sector pressures and member feedback has only increased the urgency of this, and against the continuing backdrop of a difficult operating environment, this is our best opportunity for ultimately meeting the needs of the local populations we serve. 

As many of you will be aware, the brilliant John McSorley has in the past run a wonderful BASHH Bitesize Zoom series. I’m delighted to say that with John's support, this series of regular virtual meetings, open to all BASHH members (and other interested parties) will be back up and running, with the kick-off session in March- date to be announced. We look forward to sharing more details on the Bitesize meeting topics soon, and when we do I would really encourage as many of you to attend and engage in these sessions where possible – hearing from you helps us know where best we should focus our efforts, and getting involved with these touchpoints is a great way to do that.

At Board last week, Officers and Fellows were busy understanding and contributing to the brilliant work of the groups that constitute BASHH. We were joined by Kat Smithson, our incoming CEO.  It’s going to be a busy year. It’s already been busy, and many of you will have noticed that the website has had its much-awaited overhaul – it looks brilliant many thanks to the hard work of David Phillips, Cara Saxon and the whole project team.

Finally, it is International Women’s Day on 8th March. It serves as a reminder of inequalities and the distance we still have to go to close those gaps, and for BASHH members the issues IWD highlights are close to our hearts. Inequalities borne out here in the UK when we see disproportionate rates of HIV diagnosis, increasing needs to access abortion, the gender pay gap – the list is not short. Let’s work together to address these gaps whenever the opportunity arises.

As always, my inbox is always open if you want to get in touch (


Professor Matt Phillips

BASHH President


President’s Blog – Professor Matt Phillips