BASHH echo Health Select Committee recommendations to safeguard public health services, prevention and funding

5th September 2016

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) welcome the publication of the Health Select Committee’s new report Public health post-2013 and call upon the Government to take forward its recommendations to safeguard the delivery of vital public health services in this country, including those for sexual health and preventative services.

Drawing upon a wide body of evidence, the report recognises public health’s unique role in supporting reductions in local health inequalities and outlines the consequences of inadequate investment in the area, following damaging recent ‘in year’ cuts to the public health grant. It also details the issues of divided commissioning responsibilities and the potential for fragmentation of services, highlighting the need for faster progress to resolve these issues and for clarity on the responsibility and funding of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV infection.

The challenges facing sexual health services - a key component of public health - are highlighted as a particular cause for concern by the Committee, and this is especially important in view of the increasing levels of sexually transmitted infections in this country and the threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea, which led to a national incident response initiated in April 2016 by Public Health England (PHE).

Data from Public Health England (PHE) earlier this year showed that new cases of syphilis and gonorrhoea have increased by 78% and 88% during the past 5 years, with transmission rates amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) being particularly high.

Commenting on the release of the Health Select Committee report, Dr Elizabeth Carlin, President of BASHH said:

As recognised by the Health Select Committee, sexual health services represent an integral part of the public health landscape, and failure to safeguard them will have significant negative impacts on local health outcomes, long-term health and wider society as a whole. This was highlighted in the evidence provided to the inquiry by Sir Simon Stevens, who emphasised the increased demand that would be felt in more expensive parts of the NHS if preventative services, such as sexual health services, are not adequately sustained.

It is vital that the Government now moves to clarify how public health funding, including that for sexual health services, will be safeguarded following the planned removal of the public health grant ringfence in 2018-19. Alongside this, the issue of commissioning for PrEP should be settled as a matter of urgency so that those most in need are able to access treatment as soon as possible.

Dr Elizabeth Carlin, BASHH President

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