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President’s Blog – Professor Matt Phillips

April 2024

Dear Colleagues,

It has been another incredibly busy few weeks, with important developments and goings-on across a number of our key organisational advocacy areas.

As BASHH continues to advocate for improved access to expertise and the need for a bolstered workforce, we greatly welcomed the House of Lords debate on the sexual health workforce a few weeks ago. Secured by Baroness Barker – Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health – with support from BASHH, the debate covered a range of issues relating to sexual health, including the challenge of fragmented commissioning; barriers to recruitment in GUM; rising demand for services; and the backdrop of limited and decreasing resource. Members of the Lords focused particularly on service access for young people, as well as emphasising the urgent need to prioritise sexual health through investment in public health and a renewed policy focus at a national level. For such a relevant, timely and crucial debate to occur in the House of Lords felt like a significant achievement and a momentum that we are looking to carry through to ministers at the Department of Health and Social Care. If you haven’t already, I would really recommend that you watch the debate on catch-up here.

Moving quickly from the Lords to the Commons, last week, the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee published its report on the prevalence of STIs in young people and other high-risk groups. The Committee’s findings were informed by evidence given by Dr Claire Dewsnap, alongside the CMO for England, Professor Chris Whitty, and the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza. The report recognises increasing rates of infection and the significant pressures that sexual health services are facing, setting out a series of recommendations for the current Government on addressing these. Amongst other recommendations, it is fantastic to see the Committee calling on government to deliver a national sexual health strategy, as committed to in 2019, and specifically referencing the need for government to work with BASHH and other partners in its development. The usual process is for the government to respond to the report within two months of publication, setting out an approach to adopting any of the recommendations made and a supporting rationale. We will eagerly await this response, and in the meantime continue our efforts to work with policymakers and politicians of all parties to emphasise the continued and urgent need for such a strategy to safeguard the sexual health of the UK.

Moving away from Parliament and into the no less esteemed surroundings of Merchant Taylors’ Hall, it would be remiss of me not to touch on the BASHH President’s dinner! Hosting for the first time what has hopefully become a landmark in many of our calendar’s was an absolute privilege, and it was just incredible to be part of the most brilliant celebration of sexual health, bringing together friendly faces and leading experts from across the breadth of our sector – physicians, researchers, the voluntary sector, policymakers and industry leaders. To share a room with such an impressive and ambitious group of people was empowering. It was a joy to share thinking with Presidents of a number of connected organisations including the Institute of Biomedical Science, The Faculty of Public Health, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and, naturally, Dr Janet Barter the President of the FSRH. In my own speech, I reflected on disparities in outcomes and the importance of making sure sexual health services are accessible to all, including the importance of reaching those who are at most risk of experiencing inequalities. I underlined the important role we have played in supporting people’s rights and stressed that we must never be complacent on this. I also took the time to recognise all of our colleagues, who have been working tirelessly, with strained resources, to deliver each day for patients, and underlined my belief that we must support and safeguard our workforce. I will continue to advocate on all of these issues throughout my time as BASHH President.

Towards the end of last year, we announced that we would be welcoming Kat Smithson into a new BASHH position – Chief Executive. Kat joins us from the National AIDS Trust (NAT), where she has been Director of Policy and Communications for a number of years, held a variety of senior leadership roles and worked in HIV for over a decade. I am delighted that Kat is now officially in post, and I am very much looking forward to working alongside her in this new exciting chapter for our organisation.

As mentioned previously, do keep an eye out for the resurgence of John McSorley’s Bitesize Zoom sessions that will be coming soon. Feel free to reach out if you want to get in touch (


Professor Matt Phillips

BASHH President

President’s Blog – Professor Matt Phillips