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Sexual health funding shake-up planned

The Government are planning a radical overhaul of the way sexual health is funded in primary care, Pulse can reveal.

The Department of Health's new Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV will outline a new approach for tackling sexual health – including a financial shake-up that will require PCTs to share responsibility for sexual health budgets with local government.

From April 2008 a reorganisation of sexual health funding will mean that money for primary care sexual health services will be distributed through local government authorities, and no longer directly to PCTs.

PCTs will then have to agree funding with their local Government authority, and decide on 35 local improvement targets for sexual health provision, chosen from national bank of 200 indicators.

Robert Goodwin, a department of health adviser of sexual health commissioning policy, said the new strategy document ‘will be part of a broader commissioning framework' for sexual health that would place heavy emphasis on the role of local commissioners.

He told gathered delegates at the Health Protection 2007 conference last week, Mr Goodwin said:

‘We are now moving away from national targets, and towards fewer targets with more local commissioning with a focus on sexual health provision by the third sector, and more patient and public involvement.'

Mr Goodwin also intimated that the shake up would be kicked-off after the long-awaited Treasury Comprehensive Spending Review, due to be announced next month: ‘There's a lot of work coming from the Treasury, in terms of how we will fund these over the next three years.'

Dr Richard Ma, a member of the RCGP's sex, drugs and HIV task group, said a similar arrangement was already in place to fund some sexual health services, such as teen pregnancy service.

‘It's an expansion of what is happening already for teen pregnancy. The mechanism is not new but the expansion to other services in areas that have traditionally been PCT-led is.

‘It's built on the idea that improving health is not just about health services. Using local authority partnerships can help improve education and housing, which all have an impact on health outcomes in the population.'

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