Sexual and reproductive health services cannot fail, College warns, as number of STIs increases in England

Publication date: 04 June 2019

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a new report from Public Health England about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

She said: "Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can have life-changing consequences for patients if not identified and treated early, so it's deeply concerning to see a rise in the number of STIs in England.

"Some of this rise may be due to better and more vigilant STI testing, which is good, but it is also likely, as the report notes, that more people are practising unsafe sex, or not using contraception correctly.

"It's important that patients never feel embarrassed to seek help if they think they have an STI or if they want to discuss contraception as GPs and healthcare professionals working at sexual health clinics are highly-trained to have open, non-judgemental conversations about a wide variety of problems and the best way forward.

"But today's report also highlights some dire consequences of cuts to sexual and reproductive health services in England – and the fragmented way in which they are commissioned, meaning that access to these vital services is difficult and confusing. There is a currently a postcode lottery in the UK on whether comprehensive sexual health services are available. The consistent cuts to local and public health budgets are putting some of the most vulnerable patients at risk, when their service closes and they cannot find another.

"Sexual and reproductive health services are too important to be allowed to fall into decline – as well as being essential for patients, they are some of the most cost-effective health interventions in the NHS, potentially saving millions through prevention of unwanted pregnancies and transmission of STIs, as well as helping women control their fertility and therefore, their lives.

"This is something we have highlighted in our Time to Act report, and more recently in our joint statement with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health on streamlining commissioning for these services. We will continue our work to ensure all of our patients have easy access to and receive the best possible sexual and reproductive health care."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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