Councils are struggling to cope with rising demands for sexual health services in England due to cuts of £531 million to public health budgets.
Longer waiting times for people with sexually transmitted infections are inevitable, says the Local Government Authority (LGA).
The cuts have been described as ‘relentless and quite brutal’ by The Royal Society for Public Health, as they increase the pressure of maintaining an effective sexual health service.
England has seen a 25% increase in people attending sexual health clinics over the last 5 years. Concerns have been raised about meeting these growing demands as the cuts stretch services even further. Cuts to public health schemes are also expected to continue, with an estimated £331 million of the budget to be removed by 2020/2021.
Royal College of Nursing lead, Helen Donovan, said: ‘Delayed appointments risk further transmission, potentially turning individual cases into a much wider public health issue. These worrying figures show how the government is undermining decades of progress in sexual health.’
These concerns were shared by LGA Councillor, Izzie Seccombe, who acknowledged that a ‘reduction in public health funding could also compound problems further and impact on councils’ ability to meet demand and respond to unforeseen outbreaks’.
A Department of Health spokesman commented: ‘Sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, are continuing to fall and over the current spending period we will invest more than £16 billion in local government public health services.’
NHS England also plans to launch a ‘major pioneering’ trial in which HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) will be provided to more than 10,000 people across the country.