Improving the nation’s sexual health

The release of the government’s Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England document has been received gladly by sexual health charity FPA, as it will provide guidance to local governments to help improve the nation’s sexual health, but the FPA believes that this is only the first necessary step.

The government hopes that the document serves to provide information, support and the necessary tools to allow sexual health professionals to work together effectively and provide the highest quality services possible to ensure improvement of the overall sexual health of the UK. The full text of the guidelines is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-framework-for-sexual-health-improvement-in-england.

The FPA shares these hopes for the future of the nation, and often campaigns to improve sexual health services. Whilst supporting the government’s formal endorsement of the need to improve areas of sexual health, like sexually transmitted infection (STI) and teenage pregnancy rates, the FPA have also expressed a concern that there is no guarantee that local councils will actually act on this guidance.

The FPA’s Unprotected Nation report, released in January, signifies that if the situation worsens, and local government chooses not to invest in sexual health services, the additional cost to the economy is likely to be over £135 billion over the next few years.

Examples of these restrictions to contraceptive services are already seen to impact on localities. Up until recently, women in Walthamstow wanting contraception have had an extraordinarily difficult time, particularly those over the age of 25. Women were being forced to travel miles simply to have a consultation. As a result of poor sexual health services like this, Walthamstow has some of the worst STI and unplanned pregnancy rates in the country.

The Acting Chief Executive of the FPA, Dr Audrey Simpson OBE commented: “While there is much in this framework to take heart from, unfortunately the government’s rhetoric for improving the entire nation’s sexual health does not match up to the reality on the ground. It’s as if the government thinks sexual health is the Cinderella of health services. Unless the government is willing to give teeth to this guidance, there’s every chance we won’t be celebrating the miraculous arrival of the nation’s glittering sexual health at the ball.

“Whilst we welcome the focus on young people’s sexual health, we are also concerned that this could be to the detriment of the vast majority of those of us who are over the age of 25 and still need the contraception, advice and information on our sexual health that we should expect as a basic right.”

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