NHS criticised over lack of planning for sexual health

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NHS trusts in England have been accused of neglecting to plan adequately for sexual health provision by a consortium of sexual health charities.

The report published today by the Terrace Higgins Trust, the National AIDs trust, MedFash, Brook and the Family Planning Association claims that despite central government funding being available for planning, half of all Primary Care Trust (PCT) local delivery plans for the next three years fail to mention specific targets to improving access to sexual health services.

Over half of PCTs do not fail to mention HIV, the fastest growing serious health condition in the UK, impacting on straights and gays alike.

“Over 2,000 gay men were diagnosed with HIV in 2004 – the largest number since 1990.” Paul Ward, deputy chief executive of the Terrance Higgins Trust told PinkNews.co.uk. “Despite a huge increase in Government funding, some PCTs are still not prioritising sexual health. Unless PCTs make concrete plans for improving sexual health services now, the country’s STI crisis will continue to spiral out of control.”

50% of PCT were also found not have mentioned plans for reducing the spread of gonorrhoea,another Government health target. Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI in the UK.

40% of trusts fail to mention action plans to tackle sexual health in general despite the UK having amongst the worst records for sexual health and teenage pregnancy in Europe.

One third of PCTs made no mention of plans to achieve the 48 hour access target for GUM services. Yet around one in three people remain sexually active whilst waiting for an appointment, driving up new infection rates.

23% of trusts did not have any plans for increasing Chlamydia screening despite a 223% increase in known cases between 1995 and 2004.of PCTs did not mention increasing the uptake of Chlamydia screening among15-24 year olds despite a 223% increase in new diagnoses between 1995 and 2004. The Department of Health estimates that one in ten sexually active young people is infected with Chlamydia.

“The record amount of funding invested in Sexual Health clearly proves it is a key priority for government,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health said today. “We have invested more than £300m and set firm new targets to ensure people have access to services within 48 hours, gonorrhoea rates are reduced, teenage pregnancy is tackled and Chlamydia screening is available in all areas of across the country by 2007.”

She added that the Department of Health have “made it clear that all Primary Care Trusts must take action in these areas and both Strategic Health Authority chiefs and the Department of Health have scrutinised local plans for robustness and achievability in sexual health.”