Sexual health services facing ‘unprecedented’ increase in demand, councils say


Sexual health services in England are facing “unprecedented” demand with councils across England calling on the Government to provide them with extra funding.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils who are responsible for public health across the country, said two-thirds of council areas have seen increases in rates of syphilis and gonorrhoea.

The demand for sexual health consultations increased by a third from 2013 to 2022 with nearly 4.5 million consultations conducted last year.

New data from the Office of Health Disparities show that 97% of councils have seen increases in diagnoses of gonorrhoea, with 10 councils seeing numbers triple.

There has been an increase of 76% in rates of syphilis and a 36% rise in cases of chlamydia.

As demand for care increases, without imminent action, we compromise our ability to safeguard the sexual health of our nation.

Dr Claire Dewsnap

David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said the Government “needs to ensure sexual health funding is increased to levels which matches these stark increases”.

“These statistics show that local sexual health services are grappling with unprecedented increases in demand.”

Councils have been working hard to encourage more people to access sexual health services and get tested more regularly to help improve detection rates and catch infections early.

Investment in sexual health services helps to prevent longer-term illness and unwanted pregnancies, reducing pressure on our NHS and improving the health of people across our communities.”

Analysis from the LGA found the public health grant to councils has reduced by £880 million, with the organisation calling on the Government to create a 10-year sexual health strategy and to publish the 2024/25 public health grant allocations which will provide an increase in funding.

Dr Claire Dewsnap, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said without “sufficient investment, sexual health service users will face severe challenges in their ability to access expert, timely care”.

“On top of this, the impact of tendering processes has contributed to a lack of stability in the sexual health sector and a depletion of training which further jeopardises the quality and accessibility of services.”

She continued: “This data not only demonstrates the deeply concerning trajectory of STI infection growth but also the need for a robust national strategy, backed up by adequate funding.

“As demand for care increases, without imminent action, we compromise our ability to safeguard the sexual health of our nation.”