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.
Closing the gap: Improving the sexual health outcomes of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, October 2016
There is a large gap in the sexual health outcomes of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities compared to the general population. In 2015, rates of chlamydia were 3 times higher and trichomoniasis rates 10 times higher in black communities and BAME women are often less likely to access reproductive health services.
In October, the APPG sought to investigate why these inequalities exists and what can be done to address them.
Bradford-based GP Dr Anne Connolly opened the meeting by explaining that multiple groups with very different needs fall under this single label ‘BAME’. She stressed the importance of not trying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to sexual health. Referring to experience in Bradford, she spoke about changes to commissioning which have led to smaller family planning clinics being moved into larger, centralised services, which are often harder to access for vulnerable communities. Despite these challenges, Dr Connolly finished her speech by saying that there are opportunities for better commissioning, adding that it is important to remember that communities aren’t hard to reach – they are just seldom heard.
Chief Executive of NAZ, a London-based sexual health charity, Marion Wadibia described the breadth of issues that her organisation deals with on a daily basis. She spoke about the specific barriers that BAME people face and recommended a strategic, cross-departmental approach from Government to close the outcomes gap.
Priscilla Nkwenti, Chief Executive of the Black Health Agency (BHA), gave an overview of the BHA’s work in Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and the West Midlands with communities including Black African women living with HIV, South Asian women, and Eastern European Roma communities. She emphasised the importance of improving sex and relationships education and the role of community development in encouraging screening and uptake of contraceptive services.
The final speaker, genitourinary medicine consultant Dr Charlotte Cohen, spoke about the specific needs of London’s Latin American communities. She called on Government to support specialised voluntary sector agencies, which can enable essential peer support for vulnerable populations and develop robust referral pathways into mainstream care.
A question and answer session covered peer support, fragmentations in commissioning and the role of social media. The meeting’s Chair, Baroness Barker, concluded by emphasising the importance of patient involvement in service design.
Annual General Meeting (AGM), October 2016
The APPG held its AGM on Tuesday 18 October in the Houses of Parliament. Please see the 'Reports by the APPG' section below for a full copy of the minutes and income and expenditure statement.
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.
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