New report identifies HIV and sexual health services ‘at breaking point’

Public Health England’s action plan on sexual health, reproductive health and HIV services reports services at “breaking point” says THT and “must be backed up by funding” says NAT.

Public Health England (PHE) has published findings from a survey of commissioners across the NHS and local authorities showing significant issues with the commissioning of sexual health, reproductive health and HIV services.

The report shows that the Health and Social Care Act has left a fragmented system that is struggling to meet the needs of the population. Commissioners are also facing significant budget cuts along with increasing demand.

Deborah Gold

Deborah Gold

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), says: “The HIV care pathway, from prevention, to diagnosis, to treatment, to management, is a casualty of the fragmentation caused by the Health and Social Care Act. This report further highlights the issues in commissioning for HIV and wider sexual health services and we welcome the plan of action from PHE to address these.

“Such action is not a moment too soon, but must be backed up by funding. Spending in HIV prevention has reduced by a third in two years and support for people living with HIV by a the same in just one year.  If cuts continue we will not be able to maintain success in reducing HIV transmissions and care for people living with HIV will deteriorate with severe consequences.

“We welcome PHE’s commitment in this report to ensure sexual health and HIV services are considered in the planned changes to local authority funding, which include the removal of the ring-fence for the public health budget. The potential impact of these changes on public health has not been explored. It is essential that this is done by Government as a priority before the situation, which is already at a critical point, gets worse.”

Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) has welcomed the report but warns it confirms their fears that these vital services are at ‘breaking point’.

Ian Green

Ian Green

Ian Green, Chief Executive of THT, says: “We welcome this report, which sets out honest reflections on the current state of HIV and sexual health services in England. Sadly this confirms the fears that we, and many others, have highlighted – these vital services are at breaking point.

“Demand is rising, while budgets are shrinking; HIV and  sexual health services are reeling from a combination of national government funding cuts to local authorities, a lack of prioritisation by some local councils, and lasting damage from the Health and Social Care Act, which led to fragmented and uncoordinated commissioning.

“This cannot go on. We welcome the actions set out in this report, however, this action plan does not commit to new funding, and does not address the shortfall left by the damaging cuts made to public health budgets. Without additional investment in HIV and sexual health services,  it is unclear how a sexual health crisis can be avoided.

“In these challenging times, commissioners need to work closely alongside affected communities and third sector organisations to find innovative ways to deliver services that meet the need – and clear unmet need – of local people at risk of HIV and poor sexual health.”

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