Consultation on STI funding

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

Health officials tasked with tackling Wigan’s rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases are facing budget cuts and job losses, it has emerged.

In a shock report set to go before council leaders this month, the task in front of borough health chiefs has been laid bare ahead of sweeping reforms.

In the face of ever-decreasing funding every local authority is faced with difficult decisions to make

Professor Kate Ardern

Funding for sexual health services will be sliced by 20 per cent with staff cutbacks likely, the report says.

This comes against a backdrop of “increased rates of STIs” over the last decade and youngsters in the borough “more affected by poor sexual health outcomes than peers nationally”.

The report - which will be discussed by the town hall’s health and social care committee - details how the service will undergo reforms to bring it line with the principles of the Wigan Deal.

The report reads: “Over the past decade diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital warts and genital herpes have increased considerably in England therefore there is an increased demand on services.

“Whilst overall Wigan compares marginally favourably to the rest of England rates of new diagnoses have still been subject to a marked increase in the same 10 year period, although interestingly rates of new diagnosis of chlamydia and gonorrhoea have started to improve since 2013 in the borough.

“However, young people (16-25) account for a high proportion of all new STI diagnoses (56 per cent of diagnoses in Wigan were in 16-25s compared to 46 per cent in England).”

In addition to this, Wigan has the third highest rate in the country for under 16s using the morning after pill, the report states.

Professor Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council, said: “We are committed to delivering the best possible service for residents and improving sexual health in the borough and in line with The Deal approach are keen to work with communities in particular schools, GPs and pharmacies to make things like contraception and STI testing more readily available.

“The consultation is part of our commitment to developing a new way of delivering sexual health services with residents and our partners, so we would encourage people to give us their views.

“In the face of ever-decreasing funding every local authority is faced with difficult decisions to make. We can commission an improved and more flexible service to respond to the latest developments in sexual health despite the significant reductions year on year in the Public Health Grant we receive from government.

“Through increasing the ways people can access advice on sexual health and healthy relationships, for example increasing online support and reducing the number of times people have to repeat information or wait between appointments, it will encourage more people to make healthy and positive choices about sex and relationship and get contraception and STI testing early to help them be healthy and well and reduce the impact on others. “Once the consultation closes and the responses are assessed we will be in a position to draw up proposals, there will then be further public and staff consultation on the suggested new service.”