PCTs underspending on sexual healthcare

There is 'an alarming lack of local NHS planning' for sexual health services in England and government money designated for it might be going elsewhere, according to a charity-funded report.

'A review of PCT Local Delivery Plans 2005-8', published by a consortium of sexual health charities, says: 'Only 30 per cent mentioned targeted planned investment in sexual health, despite the government's additional £250 million local funding for 2006/7 and 2007/8.'

BMA chairman James Johnson said: 'This report shows that despite government pledges, targets and extra resources, PCTs in England appear to have plans to use funds allocated for sexual health to balance their books in other areas.'

The report also found that half the 44 PCTs looked at had no specific plans to deal with HIV (52 per cent) or gonorrhoea diagnosis (48 per cent).

On chlamydia, it says: 'Although increasing the uptake of screening is a key national target, 23 per cent of local delivery plans did not mention this area of work specifically.'

Dr Richard Ma, of the RCGP's sex, drugs and HIV working party, said PCTs needed to show more leadership.

'We realise there are hundreds of targets and pressures on PCTs so sexual health can get lost, but that is exactly why you need leadership in each PCT,' he said. 'It could be a clinician, GP or other lead doing the job.'

He added that the recent GMS contract review missed an opportunity to raise the profile of sexual health.

'More needs to be done to convince negotiators that this is an important problem,' he said.

The report recommends 'significant service redesign', increased investment and capacity, and adds that improvement in these services must be a 'top-tier priority for the NHS for which PCTs should be specifically accountable'.

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