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Sexual health services at ‘tipping point’, warns LGA

Local authorities have today warned that sexual health services are at a “tipping point” as services have been forced to cope with increasing demand and severe budget cuts.

In a statement by the Local Government Association (LGA), it was reported that in 2016 there were 2,456,779 new attendances to clinics, a considerable increase compared with 2012, when the figure was 1,941,801.

This number has risen against the backdrop of public health funds being slashed by £531m, a reduction of almost 10%, leaving authorities unable to cope with huge demand.

Though council leaders say that it is positive that more people are taking responsibility for their sexual health by getting regular checks, they warn that this is putting extra strain on resources.

They added that it will soon be “extremely challenging” to keep services – which have contributed to new diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections falling by 4% since 2016 – at a high quality.

While it is encouraging that more and more people are taking their own and their partners’ sexual health seriously, council leaders are concerned that this increase in demand is creating capacity and resource issues for local authorities across the country.

“We are concerned that this will see waiting times start to increase and patient experience deteriorate,” said Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

“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.

“It is obviously good news that diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections are down, but sexual health services are now reaching a tipping point where it will be extremely challenging to maintain this progress,” Cllr Seccombe added.

“Once again this is an example of councils inheriting the responsibility of public health when it was transferred from the NHS in 2013, but without the necessary resources to deliver services.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health stated: “Sexual transmitted infections, including HIV, are continuing to fall and over the current spending period we will invest more than £16bn in local government public health services.

“In addition, as part of the wider national HIV prevention programme, NHS England and Public Health England will be launching a major pioneering trial soon, providing PrEP to more than 10,000 people.”

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