14th March, 2017

Research published today by independent charitable foundation The King’s Fund shows sexual health clinics are increasingly under strain, at a time when there are concerns over rising rates of sexually transmitted infections.

The report – Understanding NHS Financial Pressures: how are they affecting patient care? – finds that GUM (genito-urinary medicine) services are under strain for a number of reasons, including:

  • cuts to services
  • the fractured commissioning system
  • a lack of accountability.

In particular the report highlights cuts made to outreach services that target populations at high risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections.

This comes at a time when rates of many sexually transmitted infections are on the rise. Syphilis and gonorrhoea rates rose by 76% and 53% respectively between 2012 and 2015, and there is increasing concern over the threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea.

Sexual health charity FPA’s Chief Executive, Natika H Halil, said:

“We welcome this report which reinforces the findings of the Breaking down the Barriers report, which we coordinated with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

“GUM services play a vital role in public health. We’re concerned at the level of strain they are under, and the negative effects this has on patient care, and we’re pleased The King’s Fund has highlighted this.

“The King’s Fund report reiterates the importance of addressing fractures in commissioning, and the need for accountability and monitoring of local delivery, which were key recommendations of Breaking down the Barriers.

“Prevention is a key area for NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, which called for a ‘radical upgrade in public health’. The cuts to GUM services, as a result of the cuts to the public health budget, clearly demonstrate that prevention is not being prioritised by the government. In the long-run this will lead to both more sexually transmitted infections and higher costs, as people find it harder to access the services and the support they need.

“Our Unprotected Nation report warned that with just a 10% reduction in spending on contraception and sexual health services we could see an extra 72,299 sexually transmitted infection diagnoses by 2020, at a cost of £363 million.”


Editor’s notes

Last month the World Health Organization published a list of bacteria for which new antibiotics are urgently needed, with gonorrhoea listed as Priority 2: HIGH

Unprotected Nation 2015 considered the effects of a 10% cut in spending on contraception and sexual health services

Breaking Down the Barriers looked at the accountability of sexual health services in England