The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK (APPG) aims to raise awareness in Parliament of the needs of women seeking abortion and the importance of improving all aspects of the sexual health of women and men in the UK.
The APPG is chaired by Baroness Gould of Potternewton and supported by FPA, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the digital age, July 2016
It is clear that the Department of Health is prioritising digital services and sees great opportunities to save money and tackle health inequalities. In several speeches last year, Heath Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that not only can digital services provide cost-effective care in a “cash-strapped” NHS, but that new technology benefits vulnerable patients the most.
In July, the APPG held a meeting to investigate whether these claims are well-founded when applied to sexual health.
Professor Claudia Estcourt, of Queen Mary University of London, began by outlining who may benefit from eSexual Health services, including those who perceive risk but can’t access services, and those who perceive risk but find services unacceptable. She spoke about the lack of evidence to demonstrate that technology improves the health of the most marginalised and called for a cautious approach from the Government, grounded in evidence.
Dr Orla McQuillan, a genitourinary medicine consultant, spoke about her personal experience of the commissioning of sexual health services, with reference to the key aspects of tenders: quality, safety, training, financial efficiency and innovation. She said that digital services certainly have the potential to meet innovation and efficiency criteria. She expressed concern that technology may not be able to deliver quality, safety and training needs, particularly given the challenges related to the NHS’s digital infrastructure.
Dr Hamish Mohammed, Principal STI Prevention and Surveillance Scientist at Public Health England, outlined the distribution of STI diagnoses and health inequalities among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, young people and men who have sex with men (MSM). He spoke about international studies into geosocial networking apps and risky sexual behaviour, as well as the benefits of using these apps for health promotion. He concluded that, although apps may facilitate risky sex among some sub-populations, there is a good opportunity to use digital tools for low-cost health promotion to a captive audience.
Dr Anatole Menon-Johansson, Clinical Lead for Sexual Health at Guy's and St Thomas', spoke about his work with innovative digital programmes including SXT CIC, a mobile service that delivers time, place and service specific information online, and SH:24, which provides free online STI testing. He mentioned the challenges of getting testing kits returned and the innovation needed to make sure that vulnerable patients can be contacted.
A question and answer session covered cuts to commissioning budgets, safeguarding and partner notification and the possibility of tailoring messages to suit specific populations. The meeting’s Chair, Baroness Gould, finished by pledging to raise issues regarding eHealth regulation in Parliament, before thanking all of the speakers.
The future for abortion: 50 years from the Act, April 2016
As campaigners prepare to mark the 50 year anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act, the APPG held an event to discuss how legislation could be improved so that all patients can receive the highest possible standard of care.
Speakers representing abortion care providers, clinicians and the legal profession discussed the limitations of the current law.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of bpas, spoke about the problems the Act inadvertently creates for providers, such as the stipulation that abortions have to be provided on licenced premises, which hinders access.
Dr Kate Guthrie, consultant gynaecologist, also spoke about the separation of abortion care from the NHS, which results in junior doctors missing out on training opportunities and causes problems for women with additional medical complexities.
Dr Sheelagh McGuinness of Bristol Law School provided an academic legal perspective, presenting research into the fact that the threat of criminalisation acts as a disincentive to clinicians who may otherwise have been interested in reproductive care. She also spoke about the problems with the existing legal framework, which creates barriers to access for patients.
A question and answer session covered a range of topics, from the need to see abortion as a healthcare issue to the problems caused by protestors outside clinics. Co-Chairs Diana Johnson MP and Baroness Gould concluded the meeting by suggesting further investigation and discussion as to how the situation can be improved.
Local commissioning and sexual health, March 2016
Following on from the APPG's work in the lead up to the publication of the Breaking Down the Barriers report, a meeting was held to discuss how to achieve seamless pathways for patients using sexual and reproductive health services, in light of significant public health spending cuts.
The first speaker, Gloucestershire County Council commissioner Karen Pitney, spoke about the difficult choices local authorities had to make following the chancellor’s decision in June 2015 to cut local authority public health budgets by 6.2% in-year. She told the APPG that many of her local authority colleagues have been forced to terminate contracts on the basis of expediency, rather than taking carefully planned decisions on the basis of the value of each service.
Bradford-based GP Dr Anne Connolly focused on the disproportionate impact that cuts were having on disadvantaged communities and the increasing strain placed on primary care, as community clinics close or shorten opening hours.
NHS England Medical Director for North Central and East London Dr Henrietta Hughes praised the potential of new models of care and the importance of looking to new team members (including pharmacists) who are able to deliver sexual and reproductive health services. She also spoke about the need to develop accessible, accurate digital information, and used the FPA website as a good example.
The floor was opened to questions, which covered issues relating to local authority tendering processes, fractures in commissioning and the importance of sex and relationships education.
Chair, Baroness Gould, closed the meeting by summing up concerns about threats to universal, open access services, a situation that the APPG will continue to monitor.
Officers of the APPG
Officers of the APPG make decisions about the APPG’s meetings and topics. They are elected by the other members of the APPG at the Annual General Meeting.
Co-Chairs: Ann Clwyd MP (Labour), Baroness Gould of Potternewton (Labour), Diana Johnson MP (Labour)
Vice Chairs: Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Conservative), Baroness Flather (Crossbench), Baroness Tonge (Independent Liberal Democrat) and Emily Thornberry MP (Labour)
Treasurer: Baroness Blood (Labour)
The UK Parliament website holds a full list of the registered members of the APPG.
Reports by the APPG
The APPG produces reports on key sexual health issues. You can download some of these below.
For further information about the APPG contact Laura Russell on 020 7608 5258 or firstname.lastname@example.org