LONDON, August 2, 2006 – A substantial portion of the
£300 million funding earmarked for sexual health that accompanied the
Choosing Health White Paper is not reaching front-line sexual health
services, even though the Government has identified sexual health and GUM as
a top six priority for the NHS in the current year, a survey published today
(August 2) has found.
The survey was undertaken by the Independent Advisory
Group on Sexual Health and HIV (IAG) and covered all aspects of sexual
health, including services for gay men.
Many Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and Strategic Health
Authorities (SHAs) have withheld all or part of the Choosing Health
funding to cover deficits within the PCT or the wider local health economy.
Initial results indicate that funding is reaching
front-line services in only 30 out of the 191 PCTs surveyed.
The results, IAG says, represent a ‘snapshot’ of how
funding is allocated, and the situation is changing all the time.
Indications were received from almost two out of three PCTs (191 PCTs
responded out of 304).
Baroness Gould, Chair of the Independent Advisory Group
on Sexual Health and HIV commented; “The IAG believes that it is essential
that SHAs and PCTs recognise that investment now in front-line sexual health
services will save them a great deal of money in the future,” said Baroness
Gould, chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV.
“Better sexual health services bring benefits for
patients as well as delivering cost savings for the NHS by reducing the
number of STIs and unwanted pregnancies.
“PCTs and SHAs allocate their own budgets as they see
appropriate, and many PCTs are facing difficult financial circumstances at
the moment,” she pointed out.
“Reports coming back to us indicate that sexual health
services are still facing difficulties in many areas, with all that is
associated with poor funding such as recruitment freezes, clinics closing,
and cutting services in areas like contraception, not to mention lowering
morale among staff.
“Sexual health has been designated a top six Government
priority and the Department of Health is making efforts to ensure targets
are met. The funding that accompanied Choosing Health was meant to
help PCTs bolster services at a time when STI rates are increasing, yet
according to the response that we have received from those ‘on the ground’,
this is not happening in the way we had expected.
“We firmly believe that modernising sexual health
services in a holistic way is the best way to deliver the 48 hour access
target for GUM, and meet other sexual health needs.”
Commenting on the report, Nick Partridge, chief executive
of the gay men’s health charity Terrence Higgins Trust said: “Local health
services managers are going to have to be extremely innovative if they’re
going to make the necessary improvements to sexual health services without
the help of the Choosing Health money.
“Front line services need thorough modernisation in order
to begin to tackle rates of sexually transmitted infections.
“It would be a great disappointment if the nation’s
sexual health were sacrificed on the altar of financial balance in the NHS,”
The report finds that 51 PCTs had absorbed their entire
Choosing Health allocation into the PCT budget, while 33 PCTs had
withheld some of most of their allocation.
In specific areas of sexual health, 31 PCTs mentioned
that funding for the Chlamydia screening programme has been withheld,
thereby hampering the roll-out of the programme in those areas.
In GUM services, 40 PCTs indicated that services are
being affected by withholding of Choosing Health allocations –
recruitment had been frozen, services understaffed, and lacking in adequate
And 40 PCTs said that allocated funding has not reached
contraceptive services. There have also been a number of reports of
services being cut, clinics closed and staff freezes.
Results were collated from a variety of sources including
sexual health leads, clinicians (doctors and nurses) and PCT Chief
Executives. This includes spontaneous approaches to the IAG.
■ The Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and
HIV was set up in 2003 to monitor progress of the National Strategy for
Sexual Health and HIV and advise Government on implementation. Experts from
all fields of sexual health are members of the IAG.