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UK sex services must improve

January 14th, 2006

Dr Petra

Yesterday I was talking about a survey that suggested people were in favour of access to sexual health services and education for young people.

Which is just as well because other news just out suggests that in spite of government pledges to improve sexual health and provide additional resources, primary care trusts (PCTs) in the UK seem to be planning to use this extra funding for sexual health to balance deficits in other areas.

This disturbing news was revealed in a report by Brook, MedFash, Family Planning Clinic, National AIDS Trust and Terrence Higgins Trust.

This is at a time when our sexual health problems continue to spiral out of control with increased sexually transmitted infection rates, overstretched sexual health services, and a lack of comprehensive sex education.

Leading health experts have expressed their concern about the report, which you can access here.

The chair of the British Medical Association said: “At a time when many areas of the health service are showing signs of improvement, it is appalling that sexual health services are actually getting worse, despite clinicians’ best efforts to deal with patient demand….The rates of sexually transmitted infections in England are soaring and patients can wait up to six weeks for an appointment. The government target is 48 hours.

Primary care trusts need to get their act together and make plans to increase sexual health services in their areas. The government has provided PCTs with funds to improve sexual health and I call on ministers to hold PCTs to account and deliver on this public priority.”

Although I think these charities are right to reveal this problem, the responses to the report imply that those working in PCTs aren’t helping. In fact large numbers of highly dedicated staff are providing sexual health support in clinics, outreach work, specialist services, and education. They’re fully aware of their overstretched services and pressures upon them – but are nevertheless trying hard to provide quality care for the public.

We can all do our bit to help overburdened sexual health services by ensuring we practice safer sex, use a condom and if we suspect we have an STI get it checked out straight away.

For those of you living in the UK, you can petition your PCT to ensure funds earmarked to improve our struggling sexual health services reach their much-needed destination. And if you’re a journalist working on regional newspapers, television or radio you can question and monitor your PCTs spending on sexual health services. Click here to find your PCT.

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