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Call for sexual health funding

15th February 2007

Money earmarked for sexual health services has been syphoned off by cash-strapped trusts into other areas of NHS care, say campaigners.

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In 2004 the government pledged £300m to sexual health services and says sexual health remains a priority. But new research shows that money has consistently failed to get through to local services, as PCTs are finding other uses for the cash.

The government has rejected calls for cash to be ring fenced, arguing PCTs must be allowed to budget according to their local priorities.

The latest annual survey, carried out by the Terrence Higgins Trust, the British HIV Association (BHIVA), the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV (BASHH) and Providers of Aids Care and Treatment (PACT), looked at local sexual health services in England in 2006.

Of the 65 PCTs that responded, more than half said money had been diverted away from sexual health services, and a similar number said patients were being turned away.

A third of doctors said they had or were planning to restrict HIV drugs to the cheapest available.

Access targets had led to new systems which meant patients couldn’t book more than 48 hours ahead, while other patients were forced to queue up at walk-in clinics.

The Terrence Higgins Trust said around a third of people with sexually transmitted infections will continue to have sex.

The NHS Confederation wants to see a separate investment fund for health improvement to protect it from the pressures of day-to-day running costs.

The NHS Alliance said this was unrealistic, but added practice-based commissioning could pave the way to improvements.




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