Public health bosses in North Yorkshire have issued assurances that a sexual health service will be maintained in the face of a ten per cent cut in funding over the next five years.
North Yorkshire County Council’s executive has approved a move to continue its partnership with York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to provide the service to anyone in the North Yorkshire area.
The assurances follow claims in July that cuts to sexual health services, and the removal of access to testing in particular, was fueling rises in sexually transmitted infections (STI).
NHS figures show 1,656 people were diagnosed with an STI in North Yorkshire in 2018, compared to 1,575 the previous year – a rate of 450 people being diagnosed with a new infection per 100,000 North Yorkshire residents aged 15 to 64.
At the time Dr Mark Lawton, from the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said the use of dating apps, changes in attitudes to sex and significant cuts to funding of sexual health services were creating a “perfect storm”.
A Terence Higgins Trust spokeswoman added:
“This is clear evidence that removing access to testing is having a direct impact on the rates of chlamydia, with cases now rising.”
The authority’s public health executive member Councillor Caroline Dickinson said the council was anticipating a public health grant reduction of 12 per cent over the next two years.
She said while the cost of the current “high quality and well regarded” sexual health service was £2.7m a year, government funding cuts meant a minimum of a two per cent reduction would be needed every year.
Cllr Dickinson said working with the trust would enable the delivery of the required savings and ensure the service remains sustainable over the next ten years.
She added accountability and risk sharing would be shared appropriately between the council and the trust.
After the meeting heard concerns the funding cuts would lead to services for people living in rural areas declining, Emma Davis, the authority’s sexual health lead stated all outreach work would continue.
She said there would be “largely no changes to the provision” because the partnership with the trust would enable them to “improve, develop and build on what we have already established”.
She said one area the service would look to develop was in online testing, where people receive and send health tests through the post and get results by text message.
“There are going to be reductions, but there have been reductions over the last four to five years so we are used to that and the provider is also aware of these savings and is fully able to incorporate that into their budget and what they need to deliver.
We have made significant savings in out of area spend in the past and that continues to reduce.
By working in this way, it allows us to do it in more of a collaborative way rather than saying these are the savings you need to make.”
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