Sex has got a lot to answer for. The UK is facing a rising demand for sexual health and contraceptive care. Unacceptable levels of sexual coercion and female genital mutilation (FGM) are being reported, sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses are increasing [pdf], and the UK still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in western Europe.
Despite all of this, key services are facing monstrous budget cuts alongside so many other sectors of our increasingly weary NHS. This means clinic closures, the dissolution of preventative health programmes, further pressure on already overloaded GP practices, and horrifying long-term financial costs.
In truth, sexual health services have suffered financially for some time. With the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, responsibility for sexual health funding was allocated to local authorities and these services put out to tender.
Private companies can bid for control over them, which the government claimed would improve standards “through competition and choice”. In reality, the winning bids are often ones that offer immediate cost-saving rather than long-term financial benefits and the best possible standards of care.
In 2015, the government announced its £200m public health budget cut, resulting in local councils spending millions of pounds less than planned on sexual health services nationwide. Add to this a potential 40% cut in central funding to local authorities [pdf] and you can see how pressure is mounting.
Elizabeth Carlin, president of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (Bashh), is one of many specialists to express concern. “Sexual health services play a key role in protecting the health of the nation,” she says. “Coordinated care with sufficient funding is crucial.”
Full story in The Guardian 27 June 2016