"Radical action is needed in the Government’s impending green paper on prevention, to truly help address the access to contraception and tackle the growing threat of sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis and gonorrhoea."
Record demand for sexual health services in England has seen visits to clinics reach 3.5 million a year, putting the system under huge pressure and leaving people facing longer waits for appointments, council leaders warn.
Latest figures released today by Public Health England show there were 3,561,548 attendances at sexual health clinics in England in 2018, up 21 per cent on the 2,940,779 attendances in 2013.
The total number of sexual health screens (tests for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV) has also risen 29 per cent during this period, from 1,513,288 in 2013 to 1,955,108 in 2018.
Councils are pleased people are taking greater personal responsibility for their sexual health, but say this is putting a severe strain on their resources. They are warning that it will be hugely challenging to maintain services at the current level due to public health budgets not being able to keep up with growing demand.
The LGA is urging government to use the Spending Review to reverse the £700 million reduction in public health grant funding between 2015/16 and 2019/20 to help councils meet rising demand for sexual health services, while preventing people from experiencing potentially longer waiting times and a reduced quality of service.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“While it’s great to see a huge increase in people taking their sexual health seriously, this rising demand is pushing some councils’ sexual health services to peak capacity levels which are not sustainable in the long-term.
“Demand for sexual health services has risen successively for the past six years and with capacity and resources already stretched, there is a real risk of waiting times increasing and patient experience deteriorating.
"Radical action is needed in the Government’s impending green paper on prevention, to truly help address the access to contraception and tackle the growing threat of sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis and gonorrhoea.
“Government reductions to councils’ public health budgets is short-sighted and needs to be put on a more sustainable footing, otherwise they will undermine the objectives we all share to improve the nation’s public’s health and tackle inequalities.”
Notes to editors
- Councils in England face an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025. The LGA’s #CouncilsCan campaign aims to influence the forthcoming Spending Review and highlight the growing risk to vital local services if the Government does not take action to secure the financial sustainability of councils. Visit our campaign page for more information
- Councils’ public health grants have been reduced by £700 million in real terms from 2015/16 to 2019/20.
- The latest STIs stats are available
#CouncilsCan: Spending Review 2019
With the right funding and powers, councils can continue to lead local areas, improve residents’ lives, reduce demand for public services and save money for the taxpayer. Securing the financial sustainability of local services must be the top priority for the Spending Review.