Intended for healthcare professionals


Cuts to sexual health services are putting patients at risk, says King’s Fund

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 14 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1328
  1. Gareth Iacobucci,
  2. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. The BMJ

Cuts to sexual health services in parts of England are placing the care of patients at risk, a new report has warned.

The research by the healthcare think tank the King’s Fund concluded that budget cuts of more than 20% to genitourinary medicine (GUM) services in some parts of the country had led to service closures and staffing cuts that have harmed patient care.1 Experts said that the findings were particularly worrying given that numbers of diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis and gonorrhoea were rising.

Current pressures on services were also having a negative effect on staff morale and leading some staff to consider alternative careers, the report warned.

The researchers analysed data and interviewed frontline staff to examine the effect of funding pressure on patient care across four service areas: GUM, district nursing, elective hip replacements, and neonatal care (box).

Their findings indicated that sexual health and district nursing had been hardest hit, which the researchers said undermined the vision set out in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View to strengthen prevention and community based services.

The authors said that sexual health services such as GUM had become more prone to budgetary cuts since moving from the NHS to local government, because of local authorities’ legal obligation to balance their books. Authorities’ overall spending on GUM across England fell by 3.5% between 2014-15 and 2015-16. But within this there was substantial variation: around a quarter (36) of the local authorities cut spending on GUM by more than 20% between 2013-14 …

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