Government cuts public health budget by £85 million
20th December 2018
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) expresses deep concern over Government decision to cut the public health budget by £85 million. Public health services have already had to cope with successive years of falling budgets and despite an increase in demand there has been no additional funding to support this.
The cuts, announced today, will bring total cuts to public health to £700 million in real terms between 2014 and 2020. The cuts come amid rising gonorrhea rates, increasing by 22% in 2017 compared to the previous year. Syphilis rates meanwhile have increased by 148% since 2008 and are at levels not seen since World War Two.
Earlier this year surveys of BASHH and the British HIV Association (BHIVA) members provided new evidence of pressure on overstretched sexual health services and a sector at ‘breaking point’. The surveys worryingly revealed that six in ten (63%) per cent of BASHH respondents said that they had to turn away patients each week, with 19 per cent saying that they were having to turn away more than 50 patients on a weekly basis.
In 2017/18 local councils spent £30m less on sexual health compared to 2016/17, representing a five per cent reduction in the total amount of money available for services. Over the past four years, planned spending on sexual health services has fallen by £64 million (equivalent to 10 per cent).
Commenting on the cuts, BASHH president, Dr Olwen Williams said:
“The announcement of further cuts to the public health budget is a huge blow given the increasing rates of STIs, including antibiotic resistant strains and growing demand for services which is simply not being met. People with an STI don’t join a waiting list they are simply turned away, back into the community, if clinicians don’t have the capacity to see them. The sad fact is that this cut is simply a continuation of a complete separation of the pro-public health rhetoric from Government and the reality of brutal cuts on the ground. Many services are closing, and others are on their knees, and we implore the Government to reconsider the cuts and prevent a sexual health crisis in this country.”