Public health experts have warned that cuts to GP-run contraceptive and sexual health services will lead to worse access and lower quality of care for patients.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH) said the loss of GP contracts, as exposed by Pulse last week, had ‘worrying implications’ for the provision of long-active reversible contraception (LARC) in particular.
In a statement the Faculty said it had been contacted by a number of concerned GPs since Pulse’s article was published and that its ‘members are saying these cuts are impacting directly on patient care’.
Pulse’s investigation revealed that GPs are losing contracts to provide LARC services in both York and London, while in one area of Devon, GP practices are facing a cut in the number of LARC fittings GPs are funded to perform – meaning they will have to drop the service altogether.
Local GP leaders have condemned the cuts which they said will mean women will find it harder to access clinics offering long-acting forms of contraception, risking an increase in unwanted pregnancies, and will de-skill the profession.
FSRH certification requires clinicians to carry out a minimum of 12 LARC insertions annually.
The FSRH said limiting the number of LARC procedures done by GPs ‘will make it impossible for these GPs to maintain their qualifications and comply with FSRH governance standards’ and that it ‘has worrying implications for the long-term skills of the GP workforce, and therefore the quality and availability of LARC procedures’.
Dr Kate Armitage, a GP and vice president of the FSRH, said: ‘Ultimately this will lead to further inequalities for women of all ages in access to the most reliable ‘fit and forget’ methods of contraception.
‘Disabling clinicians in providing this service will mean that the next generation of doctors and nurses will have no one to train them in the use and administration of Long Acting Reversible Contraception.’