£1m axed from sexual health services in Kirklees

The authority spent £3.8m in the financial year 2019/20, compared to £5.2 million in 2014/15.

Spending on sexual health services  in Kirklees has fallen by more than £1m over the last five years.

Analysis of spending figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government shows that the authority spent £3.8m in the financial year 2019/20.

That compares to £5.2 million in 2014/15 – a drop of more than a quarter and the lowest amount seen over the last five years.

The total includes spending on advice, prevention and promotion services, prescribing contraception, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment services.

The council says it has been forced to make efficiencies by combining services due to Government cuts, but that there has been a “minimal reduction” to its offer.

Testing and treatment for STIs saw the biggest cuts out of all these services, with spending down by more than a third from £3m in 2014/15 to £1.9m in 2019/20.

Spending on advice, prevention and promotion was down from £321,000 to £223,000, while spending on contraception was down from £1.9m to £1.8m.

Across England, councils spent £549m on sexual health in 2019/20, down by 18% compared to £671.3m five years ago.

Again, it’s the lowest yearly spend seen at that time.

More than four-fifths of councils in the country (61 out of 151) spent less in the year just ended than they did in 2014/15.

The biggest cut has been in spending on advice, prevention and promotion, with the amount halving from £103.8m to £50.4m.

Clr Mus Khan, Kirklees’ Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “Like the rest of the country, we’ve had cuts to the Public Health Grant we receive from Government in recent years.

“This has meant that we have had to make changes to services.

“Within our sexual health service we have seen a decrease in the budget but we’ve managed to do this with minimal reduction to our offer.

“In 2016 we brought together services that were previously delivered separately to offer one integrated service. This has proven to be a much more efficient way to work and has helped us to make significant savings.

“Since then, we have continued to find more efficient ways of delivering this service to make additional savings in line with further cuts to our Public Health Grant.”

Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust said: “Local authorities play an absolutely crucial role in ensuring everyone can enjoy good sexual health through delivering frontline services.

“Since 2014 national Government has cut public health budgets by £700m, which has seen money available for sexual health services being reduced by a quarter.

“This is unsustainable and why we’ve been calling on national Government to properly fund these vital services through a radical uplift in funding allocations.”

Commenting on the figures, John McSorley, President of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: “Sexual health services have been placed under considerable pressures in recent years, with national Government funding cuts being applied in a period when we are seeing record patient demand and dramatic increases in the rates of new STI diagnoses, with syphilis and gonorrhoea cases at record levels.

“Prevention of STIs must represent a key ambition of the new Sexual Health Strategy that the Government has committed to delivering, the success of which depends upon a reversal of funding cuts and the roll-out of expanded digital sexual health services, which can help to drive innovation and widen access to care.”

Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The recent announcement of the public health funding grant for this year will help councils plan how to best help communities cope with this virus outbreak and keep providing other vital public health services.

“But with rising demand continuing to push some councils’ sexual health services to capacity, councils need long-term and sustainable public health funding if they are going to be able to keep providing the essential services which help people stay healthy, while reducing the strain on the NHS and social care.”

More from Local