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Sexual health services chronically underfunded, Parliamentary group warns

By Lilian Anekwe

Sexual health services in general practice have been the victim of chronic underfunding and a failure to engage GPs, a Parliamentary report warns.

An independent Parliamentary group criticised the lack of incentives for even though most basic sexual health provision in primary care, and called for future versions of the QOF to prioritise sexual health.

Their report came as a survey by the Health Protection Agency of nine coordinators for the national chlamydia screening programme found wide variation in levels of GP involvement.

Testing rates varied from less than 0.2% to 26.4 % in the under-25s, with only 4% of practices screening more than 10% of their high-risk population.

The Parliamentary report, on the 2001 National Strategy for Sexual Health, found that seven years' on, sexual health service provision was still patchy across the country.

The document, published by the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV, said ‘variable progress in engaging GPs in providing sexual health services' was a major barrier.

‘Sexual health services do not hold a significant place in the QOF, and there has therefore been a lack of incentive to improve the quality of even basic provision,' the document says.

Baroness Gould, chair of the group said: ‘We must have leadership and commitment to sexual health at a local level to avoid slipping back to the dark days when GUM clinics were to be found in portakabins, and sexual health services were an afterthought.'

Dawn Primarolo, minister of state for public health, responded to the review by insisting sexual health was a top Government priority. ‘We are not complacent and recognise sexual health will need to continue to be a key priority. That is why we have included improving sexual health as one of the six goals in Lord Darzi's NHS Next Stage Review.'

Progress and priorities working together for high quality sexual health - Report

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