Concern over sexual health spending

Drop of £4m in Enfield is biggest in London, reports James Cracknell

Spending on sexual health services has fallen faster in Enfield than anywhere else in London, new figures show.

Data revealed under Freedom of Information laws showed there had been a 47.5% reduction in money spent on sexual health in Enfield since 2013, compared to a 16% fall across London as a whole.

Silverpoint Medical Centre in Edmonton

Silverpoint Medical Centre in Edmonton, opened in February last year, provides walk-in sexual health appointments (credit Enfield Council)

Enfield Council has stressed that the drop in its spending on sexual health services – from £8.9m in 2013/14 to £4.7m in 2018/19 – is because of lower demand, not because of any cuts to services.

However, there has been a rise in the number of newly-diagnosed sexually transmitted infections (STIs) over the same period. Data from Public Health England shows that the number of new STIs diagnosed in Enfield has risen by 4.7% since 2014, in contrast to London as a whole where there has been a 0.9% fall in new STIs – although Enfield still has the 13th lowest STI rate in the capital.

Yasemin Brett, cabinet member for public health, said: “Local authority sexual health services are funded on an ‘as used basis’. Consequently, local authorities are charged each time sexual health services are used by their residents. Sexual health funding is therefore driven by demand and Enfield [Council] is not able to cut sexual health services to residents.

“On the contrary, in partnership with North Middlesex Hospital, Enfield Council has opened one of the foremost sexual health clinics in London.”

Enfield residents may now access a range of sexual health services at the newly-opened Silverpoint Medical Centre in Fore Street, Edmonton – including regular walk-in appointments. The centre is operated by Enfield Clinics Health Organisation (ECHO), a local NHS-run organisation which also provides services at The Town Clinic in Enfield and at Enfield Island Surgery.

The figures on sexual health spending were revealed by London Assembly Member Sian Berry, who has raised concerns over the availability of services. She said: “For some people even asking for help for sexual health problems can be a barrier to accessing services – but the situation is worsening as Londoners are having to compete for appointments or even being turned away from clinics.”

Cllr Brett said the opening of Silverpoint Medical Centre was helping to address the problem. She said: “ECHO offers a full sexual health service including testing and treatment of STIs, a check-and-go service, treatment for HIV, and treatment for recurrent infections and complex contraception. Residents visiting the website may also order a free STI testing kit online.

“Enfield has made strenuous efforts to improve sexual health in the borough. We recognise that sexuality is a normal healthy part of life and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our residents have the support they need to live and enjoy long and healthy lives.”

To access sexual health services with Enfield Clinics Health Organisation (ECHO):
Call 020 8887 4510
Visit echoclinics.nhs.uk

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