Sexual health experts echo local government concerns that sexual health services are at ‘tipping point’

3rd August 2017

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) echo concerns raised today by the Local Government Association (LGA) which suggest that sexual health services are at a ‘tipping point’ due to the impact of sustained cuts to public health budgets in recent years.

The cross-party body, which represents the national voice of local government, has warned that patients are facing longer waits to access specialist sexual health care as a result of growing funding pressures, an increased demand for services and record levels of sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea and syphilis.

Since 2012 the number of people attending sexual health services in England has grown from 1.94 million to 2.46 million, a rise of 25%.

Despite record demand for services, recent data from the King’s Fund reveals that local councils are due to spend £30m less on sexual health in the coming year compared to 2016/17, representing a 5 per cent reduction in the amount of money available for services compared to the previous year. This latest funding reduction follows the £200m in-year cut to public health budgets delivered in 2015, as well as the further 4 per cent per year cut announced to the budget in the most recent Spending Review, which constitutes a real terms reduction in public health funding of at least £600m a year by 2020/21.

Data released by Public Health England in June showed that newly diagnosed cases of syphilis were at their highest level since 1950, whilst rates of sexually transmitted infections amongst men who have sex with men are 38% higher than in 2012. New reports have also shown that the first cases of gonorrhoea resistant to all existing antibiotics have been identified in three countries - France, Spain and Japan.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Elizabeth Carlin, BASHH President said:

BASHH is extremely worried about the impact that sustained Government cuts to public health funding will have on our ability to deliver the timely and high-quality sexual health care that patients need and expect.

Unprecedented demand for services, record levels of new STI diagnoses and the emergence of treatment-resistant infection means we are facing the prospect of a ‘perfect storm’ in sexual health, with potentially disastrous consequences for individuals and society as a whole. Failure by the Government to ensure that sexual health services are appropriately funded will be the falsest of false economies and the consequences will be felt for years to come.

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