Skip to main content

President’s Blog – Professor Matt Phillips – June 2024

Dear Colleagues,

I’m pleased to be writing to you after another busy month for our sector and for BASHH as an organisation. 

Our two recent membership surveys have concluded, helping us gather important feedback on BASHH’s policy priorities, and providing a latest clinical thermometer on the state of play in sexual health service delivery across the UK. Thank you to everyone who found the time to respond to these, it really does make a difference. I drew on these responses when I presented at the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV, AIDS and Sexual Health oral evidence session, as part of the group’s new inquiry into sexual health service delivery. I am delighted that BASHH was selected as a witness and had an opportunity to advocate on behalf of our members.

The announcement of the general election, to take place on 4th July, brings a pause to our work in Parliament, but we will be putting out our calls to action for the next government in the run up to the election and making the case for investment in sexual health and the development of a long-term strategy that can support improved outcomes.  

In the meantime, we have been engaging with a wide cohort of political and policy stakeholders on a range of our key organisational issues, from the Health Protection Notification Regulations consultation next steps, to encouraging more explicit support for joint working between commissioners and providers. Progress in some areas is quicker than in others, but we continue to strive for the best possible outcomes and I am so grateful for all of our colleagues who are plugging away and delivering amazing work to support this.  

It is also important to acknowledge the publication of the Cass Review into gender identity services for young people. Excellent sexual health care is that which is open and accessible to all. Our members, working in safe, free and confidential sexual health services across the country, are likely to disproportionately see gender non-conforming young people, particularly those in crisis, compared with other services. It is vital that we, and the system we work in, can continue to meet their needs and support their wellbeing. We therefore have an interest in the implications of recommendations of the Cass Review going forward. BASHH is very concerned about the immediate negative impact of the report and surrounding discourse on young people who are gender questioning and our wider trans and non-binary community. We celebrate the whole of the LGBTQ+ community and stand clearly for dignified and inclusive care, and against any actions that further marginalise these groups. 

BASHH must strive to uphold the principles of open, inclusive access and removal of barriers to healthcare. These are central to the ambition to achieve holistic, person-centred care, a stated ambition in the Cass Review’s final report which we share. 

In the same vein, BASHH has responded to a number of recent policy developments. Firstly, the welcome announcement from the Department of Health and Social Care that new legislation will be brought forward to to allow egg and sperm donation from people living with HIV to friends, family and other known partners who are not themselves HIV positive. We are proud to have played a role in advocating for this important change, alongside NAT and BHIVA, to secure equality for people living with HIV on this issue. Secondly, BASHH has responded to the concerning reports that the government intends to ban sex education in English schools for pupils under the age of nine and to restrict the topics that can be taught to older age groups. We firmly believe that starting good conversations and providing age-appropriate materials on sexual health and wellbeing at an early age is an important and evidence-based approach to supporting positive and healthy approaches to sexual health and wellbeing later in life. 

Finally, today sees the publication of UKHSA’s annual data report on STI rates in England for 2022/23. These show an overall increase of new diagnoses of 4.7% since 2022, within which there has been a 7.5% increase of gonorrhoea, whilst rates of syphilis increase by 9.3%. These concerning rises continue to reflect the need for high quality sexual health services, that enable patients to access expertise, making our work to raise the profile of the specialty and advocate for the prioritisation of the specialty as important as its ever been.  

Turning back towards BASHH’s internal structures, I am pleased to say that we have been welcoming expressions of interest for two of our committees. Firstly, we have launched a new BASHH HIV Prevention working group, which will run alongside the HIV & BBV SIG. Secondly, we have invited new members to the BASHH Clinical Effectiveness Group (CEG). The CEG supports the development of our national guidelines, setting globally-renowned standards for good clinical care of patients and supporting the clinical practice of our membership. 

Finally, it’s somehow getting to that time of year again already, as we find ourselves ramping up in our planning for BASHH’s annual Conference. This year’s event takes place in Bournemouth between 17-19th June and our Conference and Communications Secretary Dr Chris Ward has outdone himself in leading the curation of an exciting and dynamic conference programme, encompassing a broad range of cutting-edge topics and expert speakers. Sessions range from sex and stigma, to emerging trends in STI vaccinations, rethinking syphilis testing and control, to improving access to sexual health services for older adults. Frankly, I already can’t wait and am so looking forward to seeing as many of you there as possible, as we both celebrate the best of our specialty, and also find time for a healthy dose of fun on the side as well. If you haven’t yet registered or are looking for further information on the programme, please do visit our conference webpage here

Professor Matt Phillips
BASHH President

President’s Blog – Professor Matt Phillips – June 2024