Sexual health services are at “a tipping point” with clinics unable to keep up with demand for tests and treatment, local council leaders have warned.
Central government cuts to local authorities’ public health budgets have left sexual health services struggling to cope with a 25% rise in patients seeking help over the last five years, the Local Government Association claims.
People with sexually transmitted infections face longer waits to see a specialist, and efforts to tackle outbreaks of STIs could be hit, the cross-party body says.
Whitehall-ordered cuts of £531m to public health budgets – almost a tenth of the total – “has left local authorities struggling to keep up with increased demand for sexual health services”.
The number of people attending sexual health clinics in England grew from 1.94 million in 2012 to 2.46 million last year, a rise of 25%. But the government clawed back £200m of the money it was due to give councils in 2015-16 for public health schemes and is cutting another £331m by 2020-21.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “We are concerned that this will see waiting times start to increase and patient experience deteriorate.
“The reduction in public health funding could also compound problems further and impact on councils’ ability to meet demand and respond to unforeseen outbreaks. We cannot tackle this by stretching services even thinner.”
The Department of Health’s own research shows that every £1 spent on sexual health services, including contraception, saves the public purse £11 in the long-term as a result of fewer unintended pregancies, for example.
Article from The Guardian, 3 August 2017