AT RISK:Funding for sexual health services
THERE ARE likely to be more abortions and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) because of government cuts to sexual health services, warned a report from two charities.
The Brook and FPA (the Family Planning Association) commissioned report, Unprotected Nation , suggests the cuts could result in the public only ending up having to pay out millions more to deal with 22,000 more NHS abortions each year by 2020 and up to an extra 91,620 more STI cases.
FPA said: "With clear evidence NHS efficiency savings are already undermining the quality of contraception services available today, through postcode and age based restrictions, limited services offered by PCTs and changes to commissioning structures, the Unprotected Nation report predicts a bleak future resulting from the continuation of these restrictions across the country as commissioning structures change and budgets are cut."
The report’s key findings include claims there could be:
*£298.6 million in additional NHS health costs between 2013 and 2020, resulting from an increasing number of unintended pregnancies – including the provision of 22,036 more NHS abortions a year by 2020.
*A cumulative increase in wider public spending of up to £124.7bn by 2020, equivalent to 10% of all welfare spending, due to the subsequent increased live birth rate accounting for spending in areas such as social welfare, personalised services, housing and education.
*An extra 91,620 STIs per year by 2020, due to increased restrictions, fragmentation of services and reductions in the effectiveness of education and awareness raising programmes. Of these, 76,840 cases are expected to be chlamydia.
*Increased infection rates which could place an additional cumulative burden of £314 million on the NHS by 2020 and could see incidences of chlamydia account for 40 percent of NHS treatment costs for STIs between 2013 to 2020.
"The report makes clear that at a time when the NHS is struggling to make £20 billion of efficiency savings before 2015, restricting contraception and sexual health services is not only a false economy but has a real impact on people’s health, lives and families," the sexual health charity said.
Dr. Audrey Simpson, OBE, Acting Chief Executive, FPA, said;
“Unplanned pregnancy and STIs have obvious costs to people’s health and well-being, but the heavy financial costs to the NHS and welfare state are also real and serious.
"The wheels of this crisis are firmly in motion. Investment in sexual health saves money, but if national and local government ignore the warnings and continue stripping away services, advice and information, the bleak predictions in this report will come true.”
Simon Blake OBE, Brook’s Chief Executive, added:
“The national sexual health and teenage pregnancy strategies have ended and the NHS is under intense pressure to make savings.
"However, this report makes very clear just how short-sighted restrictions to contraception services are – particularly for young people who have to navigate this void alongside a black hole in sex and relationships education programmes.”