Government endorses BASHH recommendation to develop new sexual health strategy
24th October 2019
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) welcomes the Government’s formal response to the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry on sexual health, and the endorsement it gives to the development of a new national sexual health strategy.
The long-awaited publication sets out the Government’s response to the conclusions and recommendations made within the Health and Social Care Committee’s report on sexual health, which was published in June 2019, following a 10-month Committee inquiry. The inquiry was launched following sustained campaigning from BASHH, with the final report identifying ‘serious, concerning trends and inequalities’ in sexual health that needed to be addressed as a priority.
The Government’s newly published response endorses the headline recommendation from the Committee’s inquiry – the development of a new, ambitious strategy for sexual health. The response also highlights that supporting a greater focus on co-commissioned sexual health services and delivering a more joined-up patient pathway should form key priorities of a new strategy.
The Department of Health and Social Care plan to hold stakeholder workshops in ‘Autumn 2019’ to begin the process of informing the development of a new strategy, with the outputs from this to be made available in ‘early 2020’. The response also sets out that a ‘Strategy Oversight Group’ comprised of key stakeholders should be created to oversee the development of the full strategy in 2020.
Commenting on the publication of Government’s response, Dr Olwen Williams, President of BASHH, said:
BASHH welcomes this full commitment from the Government to actively support the development of a new and much-needed national sexual health strategy and look forward to being fully engaged in the process that will help to shape it.
Sexual health services have been faced with enormous pressures in recent years, which have included record patient demand and dramatic increases in the rates of new STI diagnoses, as well as managing the impacts of fragmentation and disruptive tendering processes. It is essential therefore that a new strategy establishes a progressive and forward-looking approach to sexual health commissioning, facilitating genuine co-commissioning between the NHS and local government, and setting out clear lines of accountability between different parts of the system.
A new strategy must also be accompanied by sufficient funding for sexual health. The Government’s response suggests that a ‘strong’ settlement was reached for local government in the most recent spending review round. In reality however, this slight, one-off uplift did little to counteract the persistent and hugely damaging cuts that have been delivered to public and sexual health funding in recent years. To ensure this new strategy delivers genuine success and the best possible outcomes for the public, sustainable, long-term sexual health funding must be seen as a priority.
The Government’s full response to the Health Select Committee sexual health inquiry is available online here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sexual-health-report-government-response