Sexual health checks drop by 245,000 in three years as infections rise

Sexual health checks have fallen by 245,000 in three years, new figures show.

The news comes as Public Health England reported increases in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as syphilis and gonorrhoea.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said rising STIs were no surprise when spending on sexual health services has been cut in most parts of the country.

NHS march
Jon Ashworth during a march in London to demand an end to the ‘crisis’ in the NHS (Yui Mok/PA)

House of Commons library figures show a £55.7 million cut in local councils’ sexual health services budgets since 2013/14.

“These deep cuts to sexual health services are completely short-sighted and will only lead to wider pressures on the NHS in the long term,” Mr Ashworth said.

“The Government can’t be taken seriously on their commitment to prevention while at the same time cutting vital services that provide contraception, tackle sexually transmitted infections and offer crucial support and advice.”

Mr Ashworth said cuts to sexual health services put pressure on other parts of the health service involved in treatment and risks widening health inequalities.

Labour will use an Opposition Day Motion in the House of Commons on Tuesday to try and force the Government to reverse cuts to public health budgets.

Mr Ashworth will also call for the publication of any equality impact assessments of public health cuts in England.

He added: “I will demand that ministers start by reversing these swingeing cuts to public health provision and publish their equality impact assessments so we can see the effects these cuts are having on society.

“If Tory MPs refuse to join us in blocking cuts to public health services it will show once again they simply can’t be trusted with our NHS.”

Health minister Steve Brine revealed the total number of contacts with sexual and reproductive health services has fallen by 245,000 since 2015/16 in response to a parliamentary question from Mr Ashworth.

Mr Brine also admitted the number of face-to-face consultations has fallen by 85,000 and the number of non face-to-face consultations has halved, falling by more than 13,000 since 2016/17.

Figures from Public Health England show about 420,000 STIs were diagnosed in England in 2017.

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