Sexual Health Thursday February 21, 2013

Budget Cuts - Bad News for Sexual Health

Sexually transmitted infections have been on the increase for the more than a decade now, even STIs that were relatively under control in the UK, such as syphilis and HIV has seen a rise in numbers. One would think that this would warrant an increase in spending on these vital sexual health services, but NHS efficiency savings mean that less money is being funnelled where it’s quite clearly needed.

According to a report by the FPA (Family Planning Association) and Brook, titled Unprotected Nation, current and future cuts could be an expensive decision in the long run, as it will likely require and increase in NHS spend in the long run, particularly when it comes to dealing with unwanted pregnancy and the treatment of sexually transmitted infections.

False economy

The report states that there will be an extra 22, 036 NHS abortions a year by 2020 as well as an additional 91, 620 STIs. This increased infection rate could cause an increase of £314 million spending, largely as a result of chlamydia infections.

Spending cuts already in place, which include postcode based restrictions; limitation of services in certain areas and changes in commissioning structures. However, representatives from the FPA and Brook have said that directing money saving efforts towards sexual health services is false economy.

Surely, providing women with the contraception they need to ensure they have the ability to choose when to have children, is far more beneficial than having to help them deal with unwanted pregnancies later? This doesn’t just include the physical cost of the actual procedure, but also the additional aftercare in particularly traumatic cases. Similarly, it’s better to treat and detect STIs such as Chlamydia in its early stages than allowing it to progress to a more severe state that may require surgical intervention to save a patient from serious complications. Gonorrhoea infections are also a worry, as they are becoming increasingly difficult to treat because of their growing resistance to traditional antibiotic courses.

Considering private healthcare

It’s thought that, in part, the reason for the increase in the number of people diagnosed with HIV is as a result of a reduction in condom use, which is also further reason why further cuts in sexual healthcare should be considered very carefully.

Cuts in any kind of healthcare is concerning but if, as we are largely lead to believe, they are unavoidable, we may have to shift our focus to private healthcare and the services being provided. There are plenty of private healthcare options that are able to diagnose and treat STIs and even provide contraception, at a cost, we may not have any other option in the future?

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