Cuts to sexual health services cost UK £136 billion

Published on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 12:50
Posted by Scott Buckler

Short-sighted reforms to vital contraception and other sexual health services could lead to a significant increase in the number of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the consequences of which could saddle the UK with a £136.7billion NHS and welfare burden by 2020 according to a report out today

Commissioned by the UK's leading sexual health charities, Brook and FPA (Family Planning Association), Unprotected Nation paints a stark picture for the UK if increasing restrictions to contraception and other sexual health services continue unabated.

With clear evidence NHS efficiency savings are already undermining the quality of contraception services available today, through postcode and age based restrictions, limited services offered by PCTs and changes to commissioning structures, the Unprotected Nation report predicts a bleak future resulting from the continuation of these restrictions across the country as commissioning structures change and budgets are cut.

Report's key findings:

  • £298.6 million in additional NHS health costs between 2013 and 2020, resulting from an increasing number of unintended pregnancies – including the provision of 22,036 more NHS abortions a year by 2020.
  • A cumulative increase in wider public spending of up to £124.7bn by 2020, equivalent to 10% of all welfare spending, due to the subsequent increased live birth rate accounting for spending in areas such as social welfare, personalised services, housing and education.
  • The restriction of other sexual health services could also lead to an extra 91,620 STIs per year by 2020, due to increased restrictions, fragmentation of services and reductions in the effectiveness of education and awareness raising programmes. Of these, 76,840 cases are expected to be chlamydia.
  • Increased infection rates alone could place an additional cumulative burden of £314 million on the NHS by 2020 and could see incidences of chlamydia account for 40% of NHS treatment costs for STIs between 2013-2020.
  • The report makes clear that at a time when the NHS is struggling to make £20 billion of efficiency savings before 2015, restricting contraception and sexual health services is not only a false economy but has a real impact on people's health, lives and families.

Dr Audrey Simpson, OBE, Acting Chief Executive, FPA, said;

"Unplanned pregnancy and STIs have obvious costs to people's health and well-being, but the heavy financial costs to the NHS and welfare state are also real and serious. The wheels of this crisis are firmly in motion. Investment in sexual health saves money, but if national and local government ignore the warnings and continue stripping away services, advice and information, the bleak predictions in this report will come true."

Simon Blake OBE, Brook's Chief Executive, added;

"The national sexual health and teenage pregnancy strategies have ended and the NHS is under intense pressure to make savings. However, this report makes very clear just how short-sighted restrictions to contraception services are – particularly for young people who have to navigate this void alongside a black hole in sex and relationships education programmes."

Anne Connolly, GP: Ridge Medical Practice, Bradford, and Chair of the Primary Care Women's Health Forum, said;

"There is a clear danger that imminent changes to commissioning could significantly undermine the good work that professionals are doing. Maintaining progress requires investment and if we are brave enough to invest money at a time when there is pressure to disinvest there are massive cost savings as well as quality of life savings to be made, as this report clearly illustrates."

 

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